Adrian Belew Power Trio – Live at The Mod Club, Toronto

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As The Adrian Belew Power Trio enters its last week of a mammoth 50 date North American and European tour, I caught the band at The Mod Club in Toronto. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire.

After playing The Mod Club in late 2014, Adrian Belew made a welcome return to the Mod Club last night, ably supported as ever by Julie Slick on bass and Tobias Ralph on drums.  Adrian and co treated the enthusiastic crowd to an eclectic mix of solo material and King Crimson numbers throughout the two hour show split over two sets.

Adrian Belew famously fronted legendary progressive band King Crimson for 30 years – unfortunately he’s not part of the current touring King Crimson – as well as working with such luminaries as Talking Heads, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Nine Inch Nails to name but a few. The innovative guitar virtuoso sprinkled the Crimson content liberally throughout the two sets, including crowd favourites ‘Frame By Frame’, ‘Elephant Talk’, ‘Dinosaur’, ‘Neurotica’, ‘Heartbeat’, “One Time’, ‘Three of a Perfect Pair’ and finishing the second set with a rousing rendition of ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’.

The chemistry on stage between the three talented musicians was great to see, clearly they were all enjoying themselves. Using guitar effects and looping phrases, Belew and the band build up an impressive crescendo of sound for just three performers. I’m not normally one for drum solos, but Tobias Ralph proved the exception to the rule with a precise and powerful display towards the end of the first set.

The solo material was as enjoyable, if less familiar – and the balance of old and new seemed about right. Songs ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘E’ and ‘Beat Box Guitar’ allowed more room for expression and improvisation. Hopefully Adrian will return before too long as the performance was at times mesmerising and always entertaining.

2017 is another busy year for the extended King Crimson family. In addition to the Adrian Belew Power Trio, Toronto will see King Crimson play Massey Hall on July 5th, and Stick Men (featuring current  members Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto) playing at The Garrison on August 27th. These are shows not to be missed!

 

 

Haken – Mod Club Toronto, 1st September 2016

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Haken’s ‘Affinitour v2.0’ in support of their fourth album ‘Affinity’ has reached Canada and the United States.   I caught the band live at Toronto’s Mod Club. Words and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

‘Affinity’ is already a strong contender to be Album of the Year for many people,  and as the band took to the stage the enthusiastic crowd greeted them like conquering heroes. Kicking off with ‘Initiate’ from the new album and ‘Falling Back To Earth’ (from 2013’s ‘The Mountain’), it was evident that this is a band playing at the top of their game. There’s a visible confidence emanating from all the band, almost a swagger – they know they’re good and they enjoy showing it.

Technically superb,  mixing out and out aural assault with refined quieter passages – where the crowd were almost singing as loudly as vocalist Ross Jennings – Haken deliver dizzying rhythms with rousing melodies. ‘1985’ is the standout track from ‘Affinity’  – keyboardist Diego Tejeide wants a piece of the action and takes centre stage with his keytar. Both guitar players – Rich Henshall and Charlie Griffiths – are playing 8 string guitars and Conner Green’s bass has 6 strings…..this is prog after all.

Most of the set is culled from the last 2 albums (‘Deathless’ and encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ being the exceptions). ‘The Architect’ – the longest track on ‘Affinity’ – takes us on a journey through many styles and allows both guitarists more space to shine with solos. The highlight of the evening for me, and clearly a crowd favourite, is a storming version of ‘Cockroach King’ , complete with its quirky time signatures and Gentle Giant style vocal harmonies, which has the whole club shaking to the rafters.

‘The Endless Knot’ brings the main set to a frenzied finale and the band sign off with encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ from 2010’s debut album ‘Aquarius’.

Haken of course cross the genres. It is heavy, it is loud, but they combine this with subtlety and emotion, weaving an intoxicating medley of styles. It’s all uplifting stuff, the affinity  between the band members themselves and the band and crowd. This is a band on a roll, that seemingly can do no wrong at present – catch them if you can.

My review of Haken’s  ‘Affinity’ album is here.

Setlist:
Affinity.exe
Initiate
Falling Back To Earth
1985
Earthrise
Pareidolia
The Architect
Keyboard Solo
Deathless
Cockroach King
The Endless Knot
Encore:
Celestial Elixir

Haken:
Ross Jennings – vocals
Rich Henshall – guitars
Ray Hearne – drums
Charlie Griffiths – guitars
Diego Tejeida – keyboards
Conner Green – bass

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Tour Dates – Affinitour v2.0 2016

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