Friday, November 01, 2013

My Halloween with Living Colour

Living Colour's Cory Glover dressed as "Jason" for Halloween. Bassist Doug Wimbish is to the right.

Halloween has not been a favorite holiday of mine since I outgrew trick or treating when I was a kid. Since then, I've pretty much ignored the holiday all together. The last time I actually dressed up was in the 90s when I threw on a hoodie and black sunglasses and called myself The Unabomber (this was before the real unabomber was caught and people knew what he really looked like). So, last night when I got to see Living Colour for the first time since the early-to-mid 90s, I actually had a great Halloween.

The band is touring in celebration of its debut album, Vivid, turning 25 years old. Sadly, I remember exactly when Vivid came out. I was a senior in high school, and as soon as I heard the opening chords of "Cult of Personality," I was hooked. What a great band and what a real breath of fresh air it provided to a very stale late 80s hard rock scene. 

Vernon Reid (left) and Corey Glover 10/31/13 @ Waiting Room, Omaha, NE
I grew up a metal kid and cut my teeth musically on bands like KISS, Motley Crue, AC/DC, Led Zep and many others. But by my senior year, I was phasing out of hard rock and metal and finding myself drawn more to punk and alternative music. I still liked the aggression of hard rock, but I was tired of every song lyric being about banging groupies and partying all night. I had nothing against partying or banging groupies, per se, but I longed for a little more substance.

Living Colour provided that substance...and then some. The band's musical chops were beyond dispute. Vernon Reid was - and still is - one of the most original and talented guitar players of the rock era. The rest of the band matched Reid's talent and complimented his unique style. Singer Corey Glover possessed a range far beyond most rock singers, and he knew how to use his instrument. But beyond the musicianship (which can only go so far), Living Colour had something to say. The band told stories of urban decay, facing discrimination, racism, overcoming personal obstacles, and American hypocrisy. The lyrics were not heavy-handed or preachy, and it was quite easy to simply "rock out" without thinking too much, if that's your thing.

The band became wildly successful upon the release of Vivid, and that record sold millions of copies. After Vivid came 1990's Time's Up. This album was more aggressive, and less palatable to mainstream radio. Truth be told, Time's Up is my favorite LC record. It's hard to make a better guitar riff than the one from that record's first single, "Type."

After one more LP, the underrated, Stain, and lots of touring, the band called it quits. Though I continued to listen to Living Colour, I lost track of what the guys had been up to since the break-up. By the early 2000s, Living Colour reformed and began making new music again. In a different era, with the music industry in shambles, the new music didn't generate as much attention as the earlier output had. So, I was very excited when I heard about the 25th Anniversary of Vivid tour.
Bassist Doug Wimbish
Despite seeing plenty of "reunion" tours (Pixies, KISS, Dinosaur Jr, Mission of Burma, Guided By Voices), I am generally not a fan of the concept. However, Living Colour is different in that they reunited and made new music. To me, that shows the band is an actual band, and not merely attempting to cash in on past glories. This tour, however, was about past glories; but playing a celebrated album in full has a feel of honoring the past without exploiting it. Regardless, it has been 20 years since I had seen these guys and I was curious how time had treated the guys in the band.

They hit Omaha's Waiting Room last night and impressed the hell out of me. Despite the somewhat small crowd (I don't know if Halloween was the right night to book a band with an older fanbase), Living Colour rocked harder and better than during its heyday.

After opening with a Robert Johnson cover, the band tore into its biggest hit (and Vivid opening track), "Cult of Personality." Obviously, this was a crowd pleaser. But, for me, the best part of the show came after Corey Glover sarcastically said, "And now the other ten songs."

The Vivid album still holds up remarkably well after 25 years, and the guys played it flawlessly. They didn't merely mimic the recordings, either, they added bits and even changed some arrangements. Most of the show I stood right in front of guitarist Vernon Reid and marveled at how fast the man could move his fingers. He spit out insanely great guitar solos and made it look like nothing. He barley even looked at his hands.

The rest of band was impressive as well. Bassist Doug Wimbish (who joined after the Time's Up album) is a phenomenal bassist and performed a bass solo that did not cause me to hit the bar or bathroom, as most solos do these days. Drummer Will Calhoun did not miss a beat, either. Lead singer Corey Glover's voice was in mint condition and really shined on tracks like "Open Letter (To a Landlord)" and "What's Your Favorite Color? (theme song)." He had great stage presence (as he always did) and was really entertaining to watch.

For an encore, Living Colour played a few songs from Time's Up ("Under Cover of Darkness" was a highlight) and covered Lou Reed's "Walk On the Wild Side" as a tribute to the late rock legend. I had to bail during the last song and therefore didn't get a chance to meet the guys and get some stuff signed after the show. I heard from friends that they were all very nice guys.

I would recommend strongly seeing Living Colour on this tour or any future tour they might do. These guys have not lost a step over the years, and, in fact, may be better than they were 25 years ago. They have traded in their Bodyglove outfits for sports-jackets, but I find new look more appealing for 2013. They are not going to pretend as though they are still in their 20's. This is Living Colour circa now. Get used to it.

On a slightly off topic point, I wanted to acknowledge Living Colour's social media person. As I was taking pics of the band and posting them on Instagram and Twitter during the show, their social media crew was re-posting and re-tweeting them within minutes. Smart move. It showed an attention to keeping the fans current with their activities, and adds to the overall fan experience. Nice job, whoever you are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the silent shout out!
The LC web/social team