It’s packed in here tonight, but then Living Colour only come over every couple of years or so and have a loyal fan base here. Plus, they’ve got a new album (their fifth) “The Chair in the Doorway” to promote so bring it on.
They’ve been doing this since 1983 and where good then so it’s not going to be about whether they can play. This is a band with Vernon Reid on lead guitar – nuff said. Plus Doug Wimbish has been playing bass for them since the early nineties. This is the man who was in the Sugarhill Gang house band alongside legendary dummer Keith Le Blanc and axeman Skip McDonald. These dudes played on “White lines” and “The Message” alongside countless other Sugarhill records. Plus he’s 53 and looks about 20 years younger. Real hip hop history in the house. 🙂
Lead singer Corey Glover takes centre stage wearing a shirt and tie, workmans overalls and huge safety goggles. Not sure what the get up is for, but he looks like an insane woodwork teacher following his true calling. 🙂 Still, it’s his voice not his outfit that I’m interested in and it veers from Gospel wailing to rock screaming to soulful, plaintive crooning. He looks a little bit heavyset now (don’t we all) but his voice is still impeccable.
The set is a mixture of new songs off the album plus the classics, and it’s intesting to hear the new songs this way as they completely fit in with their earlier material. There’s a consistency there that comes from good musicianship which these guys have by the bucketload. This is demonstrated halfway through the set when the three musicians take it in turns to solo. Doug Wimbish stands on the edge of the stage and then he’s suddenly playing an extended solo in the middle of the crowd. There’s a sea of mobile phone cameras filming him as he plays funk, jazz and rock on his bass before leaping back onto the stage like someone half his age.
Vernon Reid’s guitar solo is a masterclass for any aspiring guitarist. It’s hard to see what he’s actually playing because his fingers move impossible quickly when he plays. There’s funk, rock and blues in the mix and you forget that he was born in London as he plays with the soul of a veteran blues musician from a different era.
Drummer Will Calhoun’s solo involves a good ten minutes(!) of playing a huge drum kit complete with luminous cymbals. His solo includes playing breakbeats, rock drumming and triggering sounds off some sort of drum pad. He also plays along to some sampled African vocals. At one point he uses a set of drumsticks that light up as the stage darkens so you can follow the arc of his drumsticks as he plays. It looks absolutely great, check out the link below for some YouTube footage to see what I mean.
They play a great cover version of The Temptations’ “Papa was a Rolling Stone” and Corey’s vocal interpretation puts a great twist on the song. It’s soulful but still has a rock edge and they merge it perfectly into “Glamour boys” off their classic debut album “Vivid”.
They then play “Cult of Personality”, and from it’s Malcolm X sampled intro it’s a song that has stood the test of time. To hear a packed venue singing the whole song back to the band from beginning to end was really one of those “you had to be there moments”. It’s a great song and Cory grins as he drops out his vocal and let’s the crowd fill in for him. There’s really only one song that they can do for an encore and of course it’s “Elvis is Dead” off their second album “Time’s up!” Their witty take on the hero worship of ‘The King’ still sounds great and is a fitting finale to a great show.
Always fantastic live, these four musicians have been putting on great shows for years. Catch ’em if you can, cop the albums and play ’em loud!
Check out Will’s awesome drum solo here. There’s plenty of footage of it online. If 9 minutes(!) of solid drumming isn’t your thing then go 3 mins 30 secs into the clip to see his coloured drumsticks lighting up 🙂
And here’s the band doing “Papa was a Rolling Stone” into “Glamour Boys”. This is just them soundchecking and it’s better than some gigs I’ve been to in the past. 🙂