Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Adrian Belew creates spacious soundscapes during enthralling show at Arcada Theatre

Photo by Eric Schelkopf


Adrian Belew is a musician of many talents.

Along with being an innovative guitarist who can create otherworldly musical landscapes, he can also write a song with strong pop hooks.

Both were on display during his show on July 15 at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

The show presented a good overview of his career, including his time in the legendary band King Crimson, as a member of the band The Bears and his solo career. 

Backed by the thunderous drumming of Johnnie Luca, Belew brought up the energy level with a searing version of the King Crimson song "Thela Hun Ginjeet."

But there were plenty of quiet moments as well. As part of the show, Belew played an unplugged set, which helped him to further connect with the audience on songs like "The Power of the Natural World," which is off his newly released album, "Elevator."

Such a format also let pop gems like "Big Blue Sun" further shine.

Belew and his band created many musical memories that night that will last a long time.




Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Guitar legend Adrian Belew talks about career ahead of shows in St. Charles, Chicago


Frank Zappa once referred to guitar legend Adrian Belew as the person who “reinvented the electric guitar.”

With a new album in tow, Belew will perform at 8:30 p.m. July 15 at the Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles. He will also perform at 7:30 p.m. July 18 and July 19 at City Winery Chicago, 1200 W. Randolph St., Chicago.

More information is available at and

I had the honor of interviewing Belew about the album and his career.

Q – “Elevator” is your 25th solo record. What did you want to do with the album? Did you have any specific goals in mind? 

I certainly did. I wrote most of this material during the COVID lockdown and that kept me alive during that. 

And during it, I realized that when this is all said and done, whatever happens in the future, I want this record to be uplifting, I want it to have things that make people feel good about life again – an elevating feeling.

Q – And you are also on a new label.

It’s the first time I’ve been on a label in a long time, because we’ve always done everything ourselves since sometime in the early ‘90s. And that works really well in the climate today. But there are some things that can be done by other people better than me.

We finally found the right people that we thought would help us out. And we actually put out a single for once, "a13." We never do that either.

Q – And I understand that this is actually your first solo record released through streaming. What made you want to go that route?

Well, I’m trying to do all the different things you can do to get your music out to people. You can still buy the CD if you want it. I recommend it, because if you buy the CD, then you get the artwork.

Over the COVID time, I also taught myself to do digital artwork. And there’s 38 of my paintings included in the CD.

I’ve done several hundred by now. I just fell in love with doing it. It’s the same form of expression as writing a song or playing music is to me. It taps into the same part of your creativity.

There’s 12 new songs on the album. I played everything and sang everything as I’ve been doing on most of my records. And this is the 25th solo record. That amazes me.

Q – You seem to be a real musician’s musician. Everybody wants you to play with them. Was it an honor to hear Frank Zappa say that you reinvented the electric guitar?

Yeah, what an honor that is, to have someone like that say that. I would have never guessed it.

I sent him one of my records. I sent him my third solo record.

I didn’t even know if he’d even listen to it. But I guess from that, he managed to make that quote.

Q – I understand that he was your first and only mentor.

Frank was the first person that I actually sat down with and who taught me how to do things, in particular how to play in odd time signatures. And there were so many other things that Frank taught me, stuff you need to know about being a professional musician, touring the world and making your own records.

One year under his tutelage was like worth 20 years to me. It was like going to college.

He taught me a lot.

Q – When you joined King Crimson, you helped take the band in a different direction and gave them a new audience. Do you feel like you did that?

Oh, sure. I was a huge fan of the original band and I knew their music really well.

But it’s really a different brand of music. It’s very English, it’s very prog rock and sort of flowery kind of thing.

And then by the time we started, it was a whole different thing. You know, Robert Fripp called me and asked me to join the band with him and Bill Buford, which is an incredible offer in itself.

We kind of reinvented the wheel a little bit with that first record, “Discipline,” and everyone’s told me that.

Q – It seems like you are an innovator in everything you do. What was your idea in creating the FLUX  by belew app?

Well, the idea of it was to have a way to make music that’s never quite the same twice. So we set up an app – it took 2/12 years to do all the computer work behind it – in which every time you press play, you’re going to get a half an hour of stuff and it’s never going to be in same order.

It has kind of an engine in it, that’s what they call it at least, that randomly picks things every time you press play. And the visuals will do the same thing. The visuals are connected to the music.

It’s meant to be a different listening experience. Currently it’s not available because Apple changed its operating system, but I’m working on it being available again.

Q – Are there any projects that you are itching to do that you would like to tackle in the next few years?

I have a lot of different things that I think will happen. I’d like to take this new band around the world, for one thing.

And I already have half of the new record recorded, so they’ll be more records of mine coming out. I’m always up for a new adventure, though.

Doing a symphony piece, which took three years to write, was one of the biggest things I ever did in my life. And I never really expected that would happen.

Doing the Pixar film, “Piper,” which also took three years to complete, I never thought that would happen. And that won an Oscar and everything.

So I think there are things that are sitting out there. I don’t know what they will be. I don’t know what those collaborations are.

I just wait until something presents itself and hopefully it will be great and I’ll make the best of it.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Chicago band The Handcuffs pays homage to musical influences on new album

Photo by Christy Bassman




On its fourth studio album, “Burn The Rails,” Chicago band The Handcuffs lovingly pays homage to some of the bands that have provided musical inspiration over the years, such as T-Rex and Mott The Hoople.

As it so happens, Mott The Hoople keyboardist Morgan Fisher is featured on the album. “Burn The Rails” was released in June on Chicago record label Pravda Records. The Handcuffs recently performed at a concert celebrating the label’s 38th anniversary.

The CD release party for "Burn The Rails" will be on July 23 at Liar's Club, 1665 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago. Doors open at 8 p.m.

The Handcuffs is led by drummer Brad Elvis and his wife, singer/guitarist/saxophonist Chloe F. Orwell. Elvis and Orwell formed The Handcuffs following the breakup of their band Big Hello.

I had the pleasure of talking to Brad about “Burn The Rails.”

Q – Great talking to you. What were your goals for the album?

The same goal as for our first three albums. We always try to write good songs.

Our approach on this album was to kind of pay homage to all those bands and albums that we loved and inspired us and influenced us when we were starting out and all the way through our careers.

There’s so many influences on this album. And we kind of make it our own, obviously.

Q – You were talking about Mott The Hoople being an influence and Mott The Hoople keyboardist Morgan Fisher is featured on this album. So that must have been an honor to have him on this album.

Oh, definitely. That came about after we went to see the band perform as part of its 1974-lineup reunion tour in 2019.

Chloe was just knocked out. They were so great. And so she wrote this great review just for the fun of it for her Facebook page.

And then a national magazine wanted to use the review. Someone had sent the review to Morgan Fisher and he reached out to us.

He knew that we were working on a new album and he told us, ‘If you need any one to play the keyboard or synthesizer, let me know.’ He played on two of the tracks on the album.

It was just an honor. And now we’re friends.

Q – It seems like there is a meaning behind the name of the album “Burn The Rails.” Is there any sort of meaning behind the name of the album?

There is. I actually discovered it myself probably about 10 years ago.

I saw a picture of rails in flames during zero and subzero temperatures. They put stuff under the tracks and they burn the rails.

It’s really kind of weird and eerie looking, especially the nighttime photos. But it’s such a Chicago thing and we wanted to do that because it’s such a compelling photo of tracks on fire.

And it sounds like a line out of a Mott The Hoople song. So we thought that would be a cool title and a cool image.

Q – And I understand you wrote a book about your life as a musician.

It’s about my long rock ’n’ roll life. I've always documented and wrote experiences down for many of my gigs.

We would go out on the road as youngsters and do crazy rock ’n’ roll things because it was fun and that’s what we thought were supposed to do.

We were emulating “The Who” or whatever. We would just get out of our minds after a show.

I was in my first band in 1970. There’s stories about me meeting David Bowie and Pete Townshend and playing with The Ramones and playing with The Clash.

I’m kind of hoping it will be released by the end of the year.

Q – You’ve been in the music business so long that I’m sure a lot of people look up to you as a mentor. Do you see yourself as a mentor?

I don’t see myself as that, but I realize at this point there are people that say that.

And it makes me feel good. I just keep going like the Energizer Bunny.

Q – I understand that the late Keith Moon is a big influence of yours. 

I always had a natural ability to play drums and without thinking about it, I just started playing and teaching myself. I started playing drums at the age of 11.

I would play along to records in my bedroom. One day, I thought to myself that I should find a drummer that I relate to and learn from.

I really liked The Who’s song “I Can See For Miles.” The drumming on it really stood out and I never had heard anybody playing like that.

Long story short, I started buying anything related to The Who which helped develop my style of drumming and performing. Add many other influences and here I am, still performing, writing and releasing albums like I had always dreamed of doing.