19 min read

Review by Manny Manson for MPM

Despite a miserable drive across country in heavy traffic and freezing fog, the thought of experiencing EXTREME on their ‘Thicker than Blood’ tour and the equally beguiling, LIVING COLOUR on their ‘30th Anniversary of the album Stain’ tour, made it all worthwhile.

The Halls in Wolverhampton were hosting a journey through time, a flashback to the funk-fuelled days of the late ‘80s when this iconic band first burst onto the scene. As the anticipation in the venue reaches its peak, the stage is set for an unforgettable night of music and nostalgia.

Before diving into the electrifying performance, it’s essential to take a moment to appreciate the history of LIVING COLOUR. Formed in New York City in 1984, they quickly became pioneers of the funk rock genre, blending elements of rock, jazz, and soul with a bold and fearless approach. Their debut album, “Vivid,” released in 1988, catapulted them to mainstream success, earning them critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base.

The atmosphere in The Halls is charged with excitement as LIVING COLOUR take to the stage. The iconic opening riff of ‘Rock n Roll’ by Led Zeppelin echoes throughout the venue, immediately capturing the audience’s attention. They local after all. The energy was infectious, help setting the tone for what was to come during the eveing.

The transition into ‘Middleman’ from the 1988 album “Vivid” was seamless, and the crowd erupted in cheers. David Wimbish, with his thundering bassline, commanded the stage, effortlessly connecting with the audience. The funk flowed from the fingers of these ‘80s icons, and the crowd couldn’t help but bounce along to the infectious rhythm.

Front and centre was Corey Glover, a charismatic force in a spotted suit and dreads that practically touched the ground. His vocal prowess was nothing short of unbelievable, delivering each lyric with passion and precision. The combination of Wimbish’s bass, Vernon Reid’s effortless guitar, Will Calhoun’s metronomic drum beats, and of course Glover’s dynamite vocals created the type of sonic experience that transported the audience back to the heyday of LIVING COLOUR.

‘Type’ from the 1990 album “Time’s Up” followed, showcasing the band’s versatility and the timelessness of their music. But just when you thought you had them pegged, LIVING COLOUR threw in a curveball—a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah.’ Glover’s emotive delivery added a new dimension to the song, creating a captivating moment before seamlessly transitioning into ‘Open Letter (to a Landlord)’ from the eponymous debut album “Vivid.”

No LIVING COLOUR set would be complete without their two most popular tracks, and ‘Love Rears Its Ugly Head’ from “Time’s Up” has the crowd singing along with unbridled enthusiasm. The entire venue is on its feet, a sea of bodies moving in unison to the rhythm. Glover took a moment to acknowledge Wimbish’s influence on the hip-hop scene, a fitting tribute before diving into a medley celebrating the 50th Anniversary of hip-hop music.

Wimbish’s bass grooves set the stage for ‘White Lines (don’t don’t do it)’ by Melle Mel, the crowd erupted in recognition, those who remember the song singing along happily. The medley continues with ‘Apache’ by the Incredible Bongo Band, a tune that has become the iconic hip-hop anthem. The homage reached its peak with ‘The Message’ by Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, a brief moment that has the audience cheering and applauding in appreciation.

As the medley concluded, LIVING COLOUR, once again, seamlessly transition into ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ from the 1993 album “Stain.” The night was drawing to a close, but not before the band delivered the second must-play song of the set— ‘Cult Of Personality’ from the 1988 album “Vivid.”

During this final performance, Glover took the show to new heights. Climbing onto the speaker stack on stage left, he sat there bathed in a spotlight, delivering the powerful lyrics. The intensity reached its peak when Glover climbed up onto the balcony, weaving through fans to finish the song hanging over the edge, waving goodbye to the ecstatic crowd below.

The set was a stunning display of LIVING COLOUR’s back catalogue of absolute bangers, a trip down memory lane for the 3000-strong audience.

The band’s energy, musicianship, and Glover’s charismatic stage presence, his voice unbelievably fresh, left no doubt that LIVING COLOUR are not just a relic of the ‘80s but are indeed still a force to be reckoned with, capable of captivating audiences all these decades later. As the lights dimmed and the echoes of ‘Cult Of Personality’ lingered in the air, The Halls in Wolverhampton had been transformed into a time capsule of musical brilliance, and it would seem that every fan present was grateful to have been a part of the bands journey.

The Halls in Wolverhampton had already witnessed the funk-rock brilliance of LIVING COLOUR, and now, the stage was set for the headliner—EXTREME. The anticipation in the 3000-strong crowd was electric, with most fans braving the cold and foggy December night just for this iconic band. Before delving into the mind-blowing set, a quick trip down memory lane is in order.

EXTREME, formed in 1985, emerged from the American big-hair rock scene dominated by bands with flamboyant looks and anthemic power ballads. However, EXTREME stood out with their unique blend of rock, funk, and pop elements. Their breakthrough came with the release of “Pornograffitti” in 1990, establishing them as a force to be reckoned with. The band’s line-up includes the dynamic duo of Gary Cherone on vocals and Nuno Bettencourt on guitar, along with other talented members, Pat Badger on Bass and Kevin Figueredo on Drums.

As the stage was cleared and the smoke dissipated, a pair of beady Gorilla eyes belonging to the King Kong backdrop, the cover art for their latest album “SIX,” stare ominously at the crowd. The atmosphere crackling with excitement as John Barry’s theme music to King Kong plays out, the addition of neon blue lighting adding an eerie edge to the proceedings.

The opening chords of ‘It’s A Monster’ from “Pornograffitti” unleashes a wave of energy that sweeps through the venue. Gary Cherone, a whirlwind of movement, races around the stage, bending over, holding the mic stand high overhead, and even standing on the drum riser. Nuno Bettencourt, with his trademark Washburn N4 guitar, cut shapes and rips out the licks to this classic track, captivating the audience with his virtuosity.

A shortened version of ‘Decadence Dance’ follows, and the band continue to showcase their mastery. The crowd are on fire, feeding off the infectious energy emanating from the stage. The transition into ‘Rebel’ from the latest album “SIX” is seamless, and the excitement and heat continue to build.

‘Rest In Peace’ from “III Sides” keeps the momentum going, leading into the classic ‘Hip Today’ from “Waiting For The Punchline.” The crowd sing along, creating a mutual connection between the band and their fans. The journey through the EXTREME discography takes a nostalgic turn with a medley of songs, up next, from their debut album, simply called EXTREME. ‘Teacher’s Pet,’ ‘Flesh ‘n’ Blood,’ ‘Wind Me Up,’ and ‘Kid Ego’ have the crowd bouncing and singing in unison.

Cherone then calls for some help as the band launch into the QUEEN, ‘We Will Rock You’ as a sing along, before diving into, ‘Play With Me,’ another track from their debut album. The crowd’s enthusiasm reaching new heights as they revel in the mashup of classic rock anthems.

Nuno Bettencourt took a moment to address the crowd, apologizing for only releasing six albums over the years. He playfully joked about making an album with the audience but lamented the challenges of splitting the non-existent profits. The banter added a touch of humour to the night, further endearing the band to their devoted fans.

The set continues with ‘Other Side Of The Rainbow’ from the new album “SIX,” and to the band’s delight, the crowd sing along, proving they had done their homework. The energy soared with ‘Hole Hearted’ from “Pornograffitti,” and ‘Cupid’s Dead,’ featuring Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid,’ by way of an intro, which kept the crowd grooving.

‘Am I Ever Going To Change’ from “III Sides” served as a prelude to a mesmerizing guitar solo by Bettencourt. His acrobatics, including a nod to Eddie Van Halen’s ‘Eruption,’ showcased why he is hailed as one of the best guitarists alive.

The journey through “SIX” continued with the cracker ‘Thicker Than Blood,’ and somewhere in the midst of the electrifying performance, Nuno, sporting a Wolves trucker cap, threw it into the crowd, adding a personal touch to the night.

‘Midnight Express’ featured Nuno’s virtuosity once again, setting the stage for the duet ‘Hurricane’ with Gary, and the inevitable ‘More Than Words.’ The crowd serenaded the band, singing every word of this classic from “Pornograffitti.”

‘Banshee’ from “SIX” followed, with another QUEEN intro, this time ‘Fat Bottomed Girls,’ eliciting more joyous singing and dancing. Nuno’s few words introduced the country-flavoured ‘Take Us Alive,’ which seamlessly transitioned into the Elvis classic ‘That’s All Right,’ turning the venue into a full-blown party.

The night reached its pinnacle with ‘Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee,’ where Nuno’s fingers danced across the frets, leaving the crowd cheering in awe. ‘Get The Funk Out,’ another gem from “Pornograffitti,” yet again, had the entire hall singing along, the energy reaching a fever pitch.

‘Small Town Beautiful’ from “SIX” seamlessly blended into ‘Song For Love’ from “Pornograffitti,” keeping the audience on their toes and bouncing along. The night sadly concluded with ‘Rise’ from the latest album, leaving everyone in awe of the sublime live music experience they had just witnessed.

In the span of a few hours, LIVING COLOUR and EXTREME had taken the audience on a rollercoaster of nostalgia, energy, and musical brilliance.

The Halls in Wolverhampton had been transformed into a haven for fans of ‘80s and ‘90s rock, a place where the spirit of those decades lived on through the timeless music of these two amazing bands.

As the lights dimmed, and the echoes of the final chords faded away, the 3000 fans left The Halls with hearts full of memories and ears ringing with the echoes of an unforgettable night. Yet another contender for gig of the year, I conclude as I drive home through the fog and the snow which had fallen while we were inside.

Live Music- your worth it!

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