Have you ever been nervous before a gig that you have attended? Sure, there’s always some nervous energy, or even some nervous form of excitement if you’re looking forward to the act(s)… But I’m talking genuine nerves here. Because it happened to me for the first time a week or so back. New York funk-metal quartet Living Colour have always been one of my favourite bands, and I unfortunately was not in a position to have seen them live during their ‘90s heyday. So I was never going to miss them on their first visit to Australia in well over a decade.
To put it bluntly, however, Living Colour are now old. Lead vocalist Corey Glover especially looks it; having transformed from the spandex-wearing, dreadlocked front-man of yesteryear into the grey-haired, grandpa cap wearer of today. The very little I had seen of them playing via YouTube and the like seemed to suggest an overly earnest show which lacked energy and relied on high – but faltering – technicality. Those around me didn’t help the predicament, with a higher than usual drunk factor and many a googling youngster asking “Who’s Living Colour”?
Well, I must have seen the wrong videos, because Living Colour thankfully blew my mind. And it didn’t take long for the nerves to be shaken out of me, with the earth-rattling low end of their set opener – Robert Johnson cover ‘Preachin’ Blues’. Talk about a band in sync! These four could all be respected solo artists in their own right, but when put together felt like one fully functioning unit. There was Doug Wimbish’s prominent bass-lines (best served on ‘Love Rears Its Ugly Head’), Will Calhoun’s frenetic drumming (especially on the near metal of ‘Go Away’ and ‘Time’s Up’), and of course guitar maestro Vernon Reid; who absolutely wowed the cynics with a performance that was a perfect balance of showmanship and understatement.
Out front, Glover may not run the floor like he used to, but has adopted an ominous prowl instead. Meanwhile, his voice borderline shocked me with the fact that he’s hardly lost any of his power or range. Sure, there’s the occasional missed high note, but from memory, that was the case back in the day as well. And that versatility – which isn’t confined to just Glover, by the way – is the icing on the cake. ‘Funny Vibe’ is borderline funky rap, ‘Preachin’ Blues’ brings the blues, and ‘Cult of Personality’… Well, that behemoth of a song brings absolutely everything. Bravo gentlemen. It’s been far too long since you came down under, but that performance was well worth the prolonged wait.
Oh, and have I mentioned that Living Colour were only the support act on this particular night? There was still 90 minutes of Alter Bridge to be heard. I had seen Myles + Creed once before and came away surprisingly impressed. That was in a festival setting, however, and while they matched the quality of performance here, the extra time on stage did result in a little bit too much sameness infiltrating their setlist. Personally, I would have preferred more than the 4 songs played off their excellent new album ‘Fortress’, but they did manage to include ‘Metalingus’ this time around – making for a double of sorts for those WWE fans in the audience. Undoubtedly highlighted by the always fantastic ‘Blackbird’ (as well as a guitar duel between Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy during the encore), Alter Bridge’s set was as solid as their albums are.
Nerves, what nerves?