ADRIAN BELEW +
PENNY IKINGER & THE EVOLUTION
Ruby’s Lounge, Belgrave, VICTORIA
Wednesday, April 26 2006

By BRUCE BUTLER

It was a reunion of sorts.

On November 18, 1978, Adrian Belew, Penny Ikinger and myself were amongst 40,000 others at the MCG for David Bowie’s first ever Melbourne concert. Adrian was on his first visit to Australia as Bowie’s lead guitarist, Penny was one of the many rain-drenched audience members and had recently begun to learn the guitar, a 12-string Epiphone, received a few months earlier from yours truly. I was a fan there to enjoy the  music.

Nearly 28 years later we find ourselves once more in a common same venue, but this time it's the far more intimate and considerably drier Ruby’s. Adrian is on his first visit back to Australia, Penny is an accomplished guitarist and I’m still a fan here to enjoy the music.

Tonight the audience numbered fewer than the MCG, many had been at The Corner hotel gig the night before and all were here to see Adrian. This was not your ordinary pub audience out for a band and a few drinks. These were boffins. They knew, or think they know, their music. They are critical and they are without mercy. A tough crowd for any support.

Penny took to the stage and launched straight into "Shipwrecked", a song which is loud and dirty. It demonstrates Penny’s mastery of the guitar and shows she’s not afraid to make a noise. PJ Harvey would love to have written this track. This was followed by "Kathleen", also from Penny’s debut album "Electra" and the nominal “single”. The song has a more delicate melody and tempo but an underlying foreboding reminiscent of early Velvet Underground.

By the end of the second song the audience is won over and paying attention. Penny, who until now has looked very serious, relaxes a bit and smiles to the crowd. She introduces "Heart Song", one of three new ones tonight . All three maintain Penny’s trademark intensity and display her willingness to push her songs beyond the standard restraints placed on most of today’s rock offerings.  A good omen for the new album to come.

Al Slavic, Adrian Belew, Peter Mavric (Adrian Belew Band) with Penny Ikinger & The Evolution members John Prior, Penny Ikinger and Andrew McCubbin at a pre-show get-together.

A couple more songs from "Electra" see Penny and her band - Shamus Goble on drums, Andrew McCubbin (guitar) and Peter Mavric (bass) - start to really enjoy themselves. Adrian Belew had now joined the audience and was obviously liking the performance. Penny and band finished with the wonderfully intense "Poison Berries".

Adrian jumped up on stage in a jovial mood with Al Slavic (bass) and John Prior (drums). The three only met a bit over a week ago but formed a very tight unit during tonight’s performance. Al and John both got the chance to show off their own sizable talents. Adrian played a varied selection of songs from his 17 solo albums, including crowd favourites "Dinosaur", "Young Lions" and "Beat Box".

The crowd became particularly animated toward the end when Adrian played a few songs from his band King Crimson: "Frame By Frame", "Three Of A Perfect Pair" and "Elephant Talk".

Apart from some technical problems with the  vocal mic's foldback, Adrian maintained his happy mood, dancing around, singing and appearing to have fun while producing an array of seemingly impossible sounds from his guitar. Adrian’s playing is simply jaw-dropping and his ability to make it seem so easy allows the audience to enjoy themselves rather than think they’re at a guitar workshop. Although the set was almost identical to the previous night, nobody minded and everyone left happy and with ringing ears.

The next day Adrian, Penny and bands went off to Adelaide for a show and I sat at home and thought about our most enjoyable reunion and how much I enjoyed the music. It was refreshing to see two such diverse artists united by their unique approach to playing guitar. I’m sure it won’t be so long before we get another chance to see Adrian in Australia. See you there.

1/2 naturally brewed beers

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