Concert Review: Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew with Cool Cool Cool @ Empire Live, 03/08/2023

Although they didn’t play that particular song, Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew were certainly “Burning down the House” this Wednesday night at Empire Live. The Talking Heads keyboardist and founding member, and the mercurial guitar slinger (best known for his work with Zappa, Bowie, King Crimson, and yes, Talking Heads) are re-creating (mostly) the 1980 tour that featured the then new Heads album, “Remain in Light.” Although Harrison is the only former member of the band from that period represented, Belew did appear on that tour as a guest guitarist.

Photo by Claude Sawyer

So, I thought I had the concept down; no material post “Remain in Light” to be played, right? Well, they cheated a little, slipping in “Slippery People” from 1983’s “Speaking in Tongues,” so I guess they coulda played “Burning Down the House.” Whatever. No matter.

What the packed crowd did get was a fabulous set of the propulsive sinuous funk with a side order of weird that the Talking Heads specialized in. Music for the head and the hips. 14 songs (5 from “Remain”) that seemed to delight the band as much as the audience. It was great to see the musicians having fun on stage as they locked into each groove, smiles in abundance. Belew sprayed scalding solos throughout like a deranged whammy barista slinging hot Joe in a Starbucknaked coffee house. Harrison calmly switched from keyboards to guitar and back, eyes often closed, blissfully into the soundscapes being created.

One King Crimson number was tackled, “Thela Hun Ginjeet” (an anagram of Heat in the jungle, now ya know) and the fact that it meshed so seamlessly into the set tells you all you need to know about the massive influence Talking Heads had on the Belew period of Crimson compositionally. 

Photo by Claude Sawyer

And what a band! Augmented by the incredible bassist Julie Slick, from Belew’s power trio, and percussionist Yahuba Garcia-Torres, the rest of the backing band was actually the opening band, Cool Cool Cool, doing double duty.

Now I knew nothing about them prior to the gig, only that they were a 7-piece unit formed when a band called Turkuaz had broken up. When they took the stage for their opening set, I was pleasantly surprised. Far from a noodling jam band, CCC are a dynamic and energetic funk outfit fronted by two terrific singers, Shira Elias, and Sammi Garett.

Photo by Claude Sawyer

The rest of the band are Josh Schwartz on sax and vocals, Michelangelo Carubba – on drums, Craig Brodhead – on guitar and keys, Greg Sanderson – on sax, and Chris Brouwers – on trumpet and keys. All sensational. All with a confident and assured stage presence that transmitted powerfully to the audience. Their own material was sophisticated slinky pop with a funky twist. I closed my eyes and could have been back in a London club in the 70s, listening to blue-eyed soul outfits like Kokomo or Cado Belle. They were that good. Marvelous stuff. The fact that CCC could then switch to handling the Talking Heads material so effortlessly in the headlining set was a testament to their talent—definitely, ones to watch.

A fantastic show. “Once in a lifetime?” I hope not.


Cool Cool Cool:

  • Gotta give it away
  • It ain’t about you
  • When I’m with you
  • I don’t know how you do it but you did
  • No beginning
  • Walk of life
  • Try try try 

Harrison/ Belew:

  • Psycho Killer
  • Crosseyed and Painless
  • Houses in Motion
  • I Zimbra
  • Drugs
  • Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes on)
  • Cities
  • Rev it up
  • Slippery People
  • Thela Hun Ginjeet
  • Life During Wartime
  • Once in a Lifetime
  • Take me to the River


  • The Great Curve

Photo Gallery by Claude Sawyer

1 Comment
  1. UK Steve says

    Talented at Jerry is, he’d be the first to admit he was in no way a founding member of Talking Heads.

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