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King Crimson’s Adrian Belew returns to Ridgefield Playhouse

“Elevator” tour intends to raise spirits, rock crowds

Progressive rock icon Adrian Belew will play for longtime local fans at The Ridgefield Playhouse on Aug. 20 — his first show there in almost a decade.

Progressive rock icon Adrian Belew will play for longtime local fans at The Ridgefield Playhouse on Aug. 20 — his first show there in almost a decade.

The Ridgefield Playhouse

Following the pandemic, former King Crimson front man Adrian Belew decided the world needed some uplifting. So what better name for his latest album than “Elevator,” to literally lift people’s spirits? 

The progressive rock icon will play for longtime local fans at The Ridgefield Playhouse on Aug. 20 — his first show there in almost a decade.

Best known as the lead singer and guitarist for King Crimson, Belew’s storied career has also included extensive touring with artists like David Bowie, Frank Zappa, and Talking Heads. As a session musician he played on legendary albums like Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors and Paul Simon’s Graceland, and has released 18 studio albums of his own.

Although Belew has collaborated with many legendary performers, he said his days of playing in a band are through — and he’s embracing his solo career. The new album was something he hoped people could turn to post-COVID, he said, so he crafted a record of uplifting music.

Scenes from the new tour:

“I had written a lot, so I wanted it to be 12 songs of my version of pop songs with my own strange ingredients. I didn’t want to put in any heavy instruments — a very clean kind of pop record,” he said.

Belew joined King Crimson in 1981 and left in 2009. While some say the band, which was founded in 1968, changed a bit with his arrival, Belew believes the opposite is also true.  

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“King Crimson changed me as well. Those first three records (“Discipline,” “Beat,” and “Three of a Perfect Pair”) set a different standard among musicians and writers, so many times we reset the bar. There wasn’t any kind of music like that,” he said. 

Belew chuckles when asked how many instruments he plays. 

“I never really counted,” he said. “I started as a drummer, so I’m a pretty good drummer. And a pretty good bass player. And of course guitar and vocals.”

Belew also plays the cello and flute but is not as “proficient at it.” He said it’s amazing what string sounds you can get from a keyboard.

“I can get them to do what I need to do,” he added. 

Given his repertoire of collaborations and work with various musicians, Belew has had a variety of influences. He was a fan of Bowie and Paul Simon before working with them, so he was already influenced by them. Belew also worked closely with the eclectic late Zappa in the 1970s. In that case he wasn’t familiar with his work, but that didn’t change the impact Zappa had on him. 

“He was a big influence on me. He showed me how to do it. So much information I acquired in one year,” Belew said. 

Fundamentally, Belew said he “likes everyone” he’s ever worked with.

“The work I did with King Crimson allowed me to do everything I was hoping to do. Up to that point, I was mostly a side man. All along, I wanted to be a front man. King Crimson gave me that,” he said. 

Belew tries to keep in touch with his former colleagues, but said the pandemic has hindered that a bit. 

“I didn’t want to talk to anyone. It was a terrible time. I just kept to myself and did a lot of composing,” he said. 

And his creativity didn’t stop there. During his time at home, Belew taught himself how to do digital iPad paintings.

“I’ve got about 700 paintings now,” he said.

A selection of these artworks is included in the album packaging of “Elevator” for fans to appreciate. 

As for the tour and the show, fans can expect a combination of all the musical styles Belew has to offer. He opens with a “songwriting power trio,” including music from “Elevator” as well as other solo records of his. There’s also a 20-minute solo acoustic guitar session with his drummer singing harmony. After a short break, Belew returns with a “full force power trio.”

“A lot of King Crimson, music with a harder edge, heavy duty,” he said, noting the end of the show will leave the crowd on a “giant note.” 

Adrian Belew plays The Ridgefield Playhouse on Saturday, Aug. 20, at 8 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org/event/an-evening-with-adrian-belew/.