It was King Crimson's Robert Fripp himself who nearly broke the prog internet when he shared details of Adrian Belew's upcoming tour paying homage to the '80s era of the band.

In a way, it was a perfect full circle moment, considering that Belew had first floated the ideas he was having to Fripp in 2019, to get his thoughts and input. He found that his former bandmate was not only receptive but ultimately, very helpful, even giving the project his blessing – and a suggested name, BEAT.

Belew will hit the road this fall with guitar virtuoso Steve Vai, bass legend Tony Levin and Tool's Danny Carey. The power quartet now known as BEAT will revisit a specially curated and considered selection of music from Belew's first three albums with King Crimson: 1981's Discipline, 1982's Beat and 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair. Tickets will be available beginning Friday, April 5 at www.BEAT-tour.com.

During a conversation with Ultimate Classic Rock Nights host Matt Wardlaw, Belew pulled the curtain back to discuss elements of the upcoming run, his current relationship with Fripp and beyond.

It's exciting to be here with you to talk about this upcoming tour. How far into preparations are you? Have you all been able to jam together yet?
Well, not long ago, we were finally able to meet up in L.A. to do a day’s worth of work together. We started with a two-hour photo session, which went very well. Then, we did some interviews. We were standing there around the coffee machine at Apogee Studios and somebody walked up and said, “Look at this!” On their iPhone, they had the announcement from Robert Fripp. [Laughs] Oh my gosh, we were like, “Well, okay. There you go, the cat’s out of the bag!” This was not supposed to be announced until April 2nd. But anyway, we went into the studio [for the interviews] and I was thinking, “There’s a lot of attention being given to this and we haven’t even played a note!” And how ironic that is, that that’s the way the music business could be. I had already extended my flight to the next day, because I wasn’t sure if everyone was going to be there.

The next day, I went out to Steve Vai’s studio, a fantastic place full of guitars. Hundreds of guitars! [Laughs] We sat down in front of his studio screen with all of the songs I had chosen at that point. We went through every song and talked about every part, how we could do this and how we could do that. How we could maybe change this for something else, because we don’t want to be a cover band. We want to do it as correctly as possible in most cases, but we also want to stretch it to the four members of the band. We had a great day. Steve came up with a lot of ideas. He’s very excited, too. I’m kind of on matchsticks walking around here. [Laughs] I just keep thinking, “Okay, pinch me!” Because, is something not going to happen or what am I missing here? I’m not trying to be a pessimist, it’s just a huge endeavor, you know? There’s still a long time. It fascinates me that it’s even being announced this far ahead, but I guess that’s to ensure that people can get tickets and get excited about it.

Fans are really excited for this tour. I can't remember the last time I saw this level of excitement for a tour before it was even properly announced.
You know, I wish I could have seen it and joined in on that. I was busy getting started on all of this stuff and I never could figure out, “Well, where is all of this? Everybody’s telling me!” [Laughs] I was only on my own Facebook and Instagram and I could see that there was definitely some keen interest. I kept looking for someone to say, “Oh, this sucks. What a bad idea” or “Without Robert, it’s not King Crimson.” Which it isn’t! We’re not calling it King Crimson. I kept waiting for that, but it seems like everyone is just really seriously positive about this and I can only attribute it to this music. We’re going to play most of the songs on those three records. They have not been played for a very long time. I think the last time we played together, those songs, was 2008. We did about 10 shows and that was it. Some of them were in the same venue, multiple nights, so we didn’t go very far with it. That was it. So that’s a long time.

Watch the BEAT Promotional Video for the 2024 Tour

I think it surprised people, seeing Robert's endorsement of this tour. Some folks were a bit unsure of the current state of the relations between you two, following the release of the King Crimson documentary.
Well, let me say something to that. I want everyone to know…and I’m going to have to write this on my Facebook page at some point. I just didn’t want to open the door yet. The filmmaker, Toby Amies, who is a very lovely guy and an Englishman, came and stayed here at my house for two whole days. He filmed me sitting on the couch and down in the studio. I told a lot of great stories. I said a lot of great things. Fun things, funny things. But you know, every now and then, he’d say, “Well, what about that?” I’d say, “Yeah, that was always a problem for me that Robert does this” or whatever. You know, I wasn’t thinking that stuff would be in the film. That’s not how I feel.

I was surprised when he sent me the four minutes’ worth of some of the film, I said, “I don’t want you to do this. This makes me look terrible. It makes me look bitter.” I don’t want to feel that way with Robert. We’re lifelong friends. Robert had said in the film, something like, “It’s not my fault, the problems lie elsewhere.” Something like that. I didn’t know if he was aiming that at me or whatever, but we’ve talked since then and everything’s fine. I didn’t talk with him very much back in the day when they were touring as King Crimson without me for seven years. I mean, what is there to say? [Laughs] But that was unfortunate. Later, Toby told me that he needed to set up the film in that way, because at the end of the film, I end the whole drama by saying, “But regardless of all of those things, I loved being in King Crimson, because it’s a band in which you can make music like no other.” Something on that order. So I basically got sacrificed. [Laughs]

That’s the unfortunate thing. You hear this a lot from people that participate in films. At the end of the day, what’s the story that the filmmaker wants to tell? You’re illustrating what sometimes people walk into, when it comes to the movie that’s being made.
Well, yes. Exactly. It’s the movie he sought to make. You know, I can’t blame him for that. It’s his artistic endeavor, not mine. When they first called me about being in a film about King Crimson, they said to me that the whole film was about the 50 years of King Crimson music. I really didn’t want to be involved with it, because I hadn’t been in the band for a long time at that point. But I said, “Oh, whoa. I’ll look really bad, if I don’t at least say something.” By the time he came here — or maybe it was after he left — they changed it to be basically about the last two years of the band that I wasn’t in. So I really shouldn’t have been in the film. That’s another thing that was problematic for me. But hey, listen, that’s all good stuff. What is really great is that we came through all of that. Here we are starting a whole new adventure. [Laughs]

Rumors were floating around that Vinnie Colaiuta was in the mix at some point to handle the drumming duties. What sort of truth is there to that?
Well, the first time I talked to Steve Vai, Scrote [tour organizer Angelo Bundini] gave me his number and I was sitting in the Publix parking lot, at the grocery store. I was so excited, because Scrote said, “Well, he sounds like he might be into it!” I called him and we talked for maybe 15 minutes. I was amazed, he was really excited. He said, “Oh, thank you man. I can’t believe this. This will be fantastic!” That caught me off guard. I said, “Well, who do you think the drummer could be?” We have to have people who have enough of a name and can draw enough of an audience in order to be able to do what we want to do with this. He said, “Well, I’m best friends with Vinnie, let me give him a call.” That was the end of the conversation and then I learned that Vinnie said yes.

Before we even enlisted Steve Vai, we were talking about [the importance of] Bill Bruford too. And I said, “Well, I know the drummer who is the right guy.” When you say the words “Bill Bruford,” I’ve been friends with Danny Carey for many years now. We’ve played together. He’s jumped up on stage and played King Crimson songs with us in different bands I’ve been in. He played on two of my records. There’s nobody I know who has learned more from Bill Bruford. That came along for him, like the Beatles did for me. Those three [King Crimson] records were just eye-opening for him. But when Steve said Vinnie, I thought, well, I really don’t think Danny will be able to do it. He’s in Tool and that’s a very big band and they’re friends of mine too. So we went for that with a while.

[Though Colaiuta was on board, there were further complications. Bassist Tony Levin had touring commitments with Peter Gabriel. Thankfully, timing shifted and things worked out that Levin was able to participate. But then Colaiuta had to exit unexpectedly due to personal reasons and a surprising door opened after that.]

Vinnie bowed out and he was very sad about it, because he was so excited and really wanted to do it. So then I went back to Danny Carey. I met up with him at the Tool show here in Nashville where I live. They were just closing out their tour. I think they had about a week left of tour dates. I said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea.” He went crazy. Then, he said, “Well, I need to talk to my wife. We’ve got two small kids. I want to make sure [this will work]." His wife Rynne is a great friend of ours. He also told me, “Of course, I need to talk to Tool and see what those guys say." Now, Tool has always been really sweet and nice to me. They like King Crimson so much that they invited us to open for them, just so their fans could see, “Hey, this is where some of our stuff came from.” [Laughs] It was a couple of days waiting and I was on pins and needles again. All of the sudden, Danny called, “Man, I am so happy that you chose me for this. This is like a dream come true and I can do it, because the guys in the band have said that they’re going to take some time away and start writing another record. I can still be involved in that.”

There's a lot of tour dates on deck. The natural question is whether or not this extends beyond just being a touring thing. What sort of conversations have there been about making music together in the studio?
Well, it does go beyond [the tour dates that have been announced] already. It's in the works. We put all of the dates together for the United States. But we are going further than that to some parts of Asia. I know Japan, for sure. I hope we actually go to places I haven't been like South Korea, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, I don't know. There is already talk about being able to do another leg sometime next year. As far as getting in the studio, it's a bit early for that. I don't know if this is an actual band or it's a show that these people are putting on. [Laughs]

But I'm really hopeful that it can take [flight and become something else]. When I was at Steve's house, he said, "You know, I've got this little thing here." He started playing this sequence of chords. He said, "I don't have it worked out, but it's all in my head here and I just keep thinking that you could sing over this like crazy." That gave me chills, thinking about that. "Oh, well, Steve is thinking then that this might go further." You and I once talked about the same thing with Gizmodrome, how difficult it is when you have these very successful musicians who have a lot of commitments and things and how hard it is to keep that rolling out.

So that may be the biggest question: When can we all be together? Is it enough time to really continue a lot or is it just that we'll never get in the same room again. [Laughs] But I think a band like this, these shows are going to be really exciting. You know, it's like holding back a tsunami. Sooner or later, these kinds of players are going to make it their own — and it's correct to do that.

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Gallery Credit: Ryan Reed

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