Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew Bring Their Remain in Light Tour to the Agora

The show celebrating the famous Talking Heads album takes place on July 28

click to enlarge Adrian Belew (left) and Jerry Harrison. - Michael Weintrob
Michael Weintrob
Adrian Belew (left) and Jerry Harrison.
Talking Heads singer-multi-instrumentalist Jerry Harrison befriended singer-guitarist Adrian Belew (Frank Zappa, King Crimson) years ago when Belew  guested on the 1980 Talking Heads album, Remain in Light.  But they only recently decided to launch a tour that revisits and celebrates that album. 

“We regularly talked about how fantastic the Talking Heads tour was that we did in 1980 and also the YouTube video that documents playing in Rome in 1980," says Harrison via phone from his Northern California home. Belew and Harrison bring their Remain in Light Tour to the Agora at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 28. “We wanted to use it as a blueprint for a tour."

After Harrison met the guys in the jam band Turkuaz (now Cool, Cool, Cool after a lineup change) a few years ago, he realized they were the right musicians to back him and Belew because they are such big Talking Heads fans and have a deep knowledge of the material.

"They also don’t have to meet each other and decide who can share rooms," says Harrison. "They’ve got the kinks worked out for me. It’s like they know who wanted the top bunk and who likes the lower bunk on the bus. A tour with brand new people takes some time to work out and sometimes there are incompatibilities. With Turkuaz, I realized we could just walk in and begin. It’s been so much fun over the past few years.”

Harrison originally met Turkuaz when their manager contacted him and asked him if we wanted to produce a record of theirs.

“They did a Talking Heads song, and I could tell they had really studied the parts,” says Harrison. “They’re really great musicians. We could all walk in with a lot of prior knowledge to make this work. Having a horn section has just been a delight. I can rearrange the songs by adding horns.”

Remain in Light famously provided the Heads with the opportunity to explore the kind of Afro-pop-influenced music they had only touched on with “I Zimbra,” a track from 1979’s Fear of Music.

“For Remain in Light, we very deliberately decided not to write everything in advance but to treat the studio as an open slate," says Harrison. "We were using the studio as a tool. Boards back then had an A/B button. You could assign various channels on the board to A or B. We would play with different parts of the songs. We could make something the A group and the B group.  We wanted to create this freshness and capture the moment of discovery so to speak.”

Belew simply came in for one day to listen to the basic tracks and embellish them with his distinctive guitar playing. Heads singer David Byrne had not yet sung on the album, so he was just responding to the music.

“We put Adrian in a room and said, ‘When you feel like a solo, go for it,'" says Harrison. "We knew we would use editing as a compositional tool. The fact that there were not chord changes made it more of a challenge to write interesting melodies that went someplace.”

Harrison says the music's infectious nature continues to translate to the stage.

"One of the most important things [with the Remain in Light Tour] is that the audience sees a group of musicians having a great time playing on stage, and the audience is invited to join us, and they do," he says. "We don’t have the budget for a big visual show. It’s about the music. These are really good musicians playing this great music.”

As much as Harrison still holds the music of Talking Heads in high regard, he says fans shouldn’t give much credence to rumors of a Talking Heads reunion.

“People will always talk," he says. "With the re-release of [the concert film] Stop Making Sense, we have spent some time together, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.”

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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