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Two of a Perfect Power Trio

October 18, 2011

The Regency Theater, San Francisco, California

By Mike Patterson


 I’m scurrying down a side street in San Francisco on a dark, drizzle drenched night, dodging street bums, heading to the parking garage that closes at 10 o’clock and will leave us with a locked up car. Leaving the afore mentioned garage, I make my way to the suggested all night garage which I find is now shut down and surrounded by chain-link fencing. Grrrr…………..

Finally finding a spot in front of the Bentley dealer, no time to look at the Lambos’ in the windows, I park the car on the street and run the 3 blocks to the Regency Theater. Getting inside, I find my wife and purchase a much needed beer.

We are here for the 2 of a Perfect Trio Tour - a series of concerts consisting of Tony Levin’s Stickmen and The Adrian Belew Power Trio. Both men are most well known for being part of the 80’s King Crimson line up, and arguably, one the best incarnations of the band, ever. Tony’s drummer, Pat Mastelotto, was part of the 90’s line up and is a master in his own right. Markus Reuter is on touch guitar.

We find our seats (perfect, by-the-way), check out the beautiful interior of the theater and head back to the waiting area to kill some time. There I see a somewhat familiar looking woman behind a table selling CDs and getting her picture taken. With a little investigation, I find out that its Robert Fripp’s sister, Patricia.

Family resemblance anyone?

When I get a chance I chat with her, ask about Robert (“he’s retired now”), and then noticing that it’s time for the concert to start, head to our seats, all the while getting a contact high from some HerbDeHumbolt wafting through the air. Patricia, being a professional speaker, comes on stage, does the intro, including a strange, you have to be a Crimson fan to “get” it, message from Robert.

Patricia finishes, the lights drop and Stick Men enter the stage. They immediately start in on the first song……………………..HOLY COW!

Nothing, and I mean nothing, can prepare you for the visceral impact of these absolute masters. When I say “impact”, I mean it. This music beats the snot out of you, and I mean that in a good way, a VERY good way. The bass alone is incredible, deep, clean, and earth shaking. I look down and my pant legs are moving. Really, I’m not kidding. This is some of the deepest, loudest bass I’ve ever encountered.

Tony is hunched over the “stick” legs spread, playing like a madman, while Markus, in German fashion, looks stoic, while belting out riffs. Does this man smile? Does he ever look like he’s trying? He has an ease of play that’s very belying compared to what’s coming out of the touch guitar.

Pat is beating the drum kit into submission, in the best possible way. I’ve seen very few drummers as good as this. I’m trying to figure how the kit even stays on the stage.

They play for 45 min, all of it simply dumbfounding, it’s that good. Finishing off with their take on The Firebird Suite they leave to a standing ovation. This would not be the first.

During the first break, I miss the part of the first minute of Adrian’s set (I was getting Tony’s and Pat’s signatures). I hurry in and sit down. All worries that any follow up band can’t compare to Stick Men vanishes. Belew’s Power Trio, Adrian, Julie Slick on bass, Tobias Ralph on drums are different but no less impressive.

Adrian has, if anything, gotten better over the past 25+ years that I’ve been following him. His vocals are still great, his energy infectious. His play style still lets you know, this guy is having a blast. Anytime he samples a riff he makes a face like “Oh looky, it worked!” Priceless.

Julie Slick ………… a monster on bass. She has to be one of the best bassists, male or female (well, except for Tony J) I’ve seen.

Tobias is an awesome percussionist, very reminiscent of Bill Bruford. All together they make for a true “power trio”. They go through their repertoire including a Crimson song that Adrian says he’s “allowed” to do. Every single song is met with a standing ovation, and they deserve it.

After the second break both bands come back on stage to start the ‘Crimson-esque” part of the show. This being called “esque” is far from the reality. It IS King Crimson. All the songs are spot-on. From Frame by Frame to Indiscipline and many more, I may as well have been back in 80’s-90’s, except for one song that Adrian referred to as being “written before I was born”.

I was in heaven, but as we all know, all good things come to an end. The finale was massive. It’s the only way describe it. Bass notes so deep, so loud, I thought the building was going to collapse. This was/is quite possibly the best concert I have ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot.

I am now spoiled forever, and I don’t mind.