Living Colour at Warehouse Live, 7/28/2013
You could see the looks of shock on the faces of the audience when, for just the second song of the night, guitarist Vernon Reid ripped into the recognizable intro for "Cult of Personality," Living Colour's most recognizable and arguably most powerful track.
Maybe they didn't know that the band was celebrating the 25th anniversary of their debut record, Vivid, by playing it in its entirety -- and "Cult" happens to be the leadoff track. What? Shouldn't this be the set closer or encore?
Interestingly, the gambit worked. It sent a jolt through the crowd that brought the energy level up early, and hardcore fans were spared having to hear that guy (and there's one in every crowd), yell out the song title all night. As if they wouldn't play it.
So for two hours Sunday night, Living Colour ran through not only Vivid, but later album cuts and a few choice covers to a rapt but surprisingly small audience whose passion belied its size in numbers.
Corey Glover's voice is a force of nature in itself. Growling, wailing, screaming, strident -- he's lost not a whit of range in the passing quarter-century. Reid's guitar solos weren't as flashy as his wild checkered sport coat and shirt, but the put the power where needed.
Bassist Doug Wimbish proved skillful and fluid, at times making his instrument sound like a guitar and -- with the aid of a little metal ring -- a theremin. And drummer Will Calhoun proved the living embodiment of the band's name with his multicolored drumsticks that, when the stage lights cut out during his solo, seemed to leave tracers of superhuman speed.
Standout numbers included a furious "Middle Man." Reid dedicated it to King's X vocalist Dug Pinnick, who was in attendance and substituted for Glover on a tour some years back (sadly, he didn't join them onstage for a number). Also a hard charging "Desperate People," and the elegant "Open Letter (To a Landlord)," in which the band got all churchified.
Funk reared its head on the audience-participatory "What's Your Favorite Colour?" and a greasy workout of James Brown's "Sex Machine." And after Glover asked the audience if it wanted "one more," he led the group through the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" a favorite of theirs for years.
It is a shame that a band this powerful and versatile hasn't truly gotten its due, and will always be best known for one monster song. But -- if their consistent onstage interaction of laughing and joy is any indication -- they might not mind too much as long as they can play for an appreciative and vocal audience. Of all colors and hues.
Personal Bias: Wore out a cassette of Vivid in the summer of 1988 and been a fan ever since.
The Crowd: Sadly, sparse, with about one-third of the venue filled. But many thirty- and fortysomethings, mouthing the words to Vivid's lesser-known tracks. More African-Americans than I've ever seen at a rock show.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I'm here with my ex-wife's husband. We're really good friends. We make it work."
Random Notebook Dump: Doug Wimbish has some fucking HUGE fingers.
Preachin' Blues (Robert Johnson cover)
Cult of Personality
I Want to Know
Amazing Grace > Open Letter (To a Landlord)
Memories Can't Wait
What's Your Favorite Color?
Which Way to America
Love Rears Its Ugly Head
Sex Machine (James Brown cover)
Should I Stay or Should I Go? (Clash cover)