Every so often the music gods bestow upon us a band so good it defies belief and makes the toughest metal head cry. That band is Living Colour and on Friday night at 170 Russell, the trailblazers of funk metal, put on a phenomenal performance uniting fans of different musical genres.
From the opening number, Robert Johnson’s “Preachin Blues” until the finale, it’s clear that each band member is a highly accomplished musician. Founding member Vernon Reid’s guitar work is jaw dropping, his lightning quick fingers manoeuvre around his fret board producing signature riffs and killer guitar solos, Corey Glover’s vocal range is astounding, from his primal, guttural screams to angelic falsetto, entertaining the throng, Doug Wimbish thrills the crowd with his prowess on bass, even playing with his teeth and a fan’s bottle of Jack and Coke during his stellar bass solo and Will Calhoun impresses all with his powerful drumming, fusing funk with thrash metal at break neck speed and creating sound effects using his Synthesesia Mandala Drum which he wows us with during his drum solo.
“Wall” showcases Wimbish’s bass effects, whilst “Middle Man” is a full metal assault on the senses. Drawing heavily from their acclaimed debut album Vivid, released in 1988, the frenetic pace of the band does not abate. Wimbish sums it up by saying “Real music in real time. That’s how we do it.” The level of musicianship is high with some good humour thrown in ; Reid and Glover engage in a hilarious faux argument about their 30 year history, before singing “Mind Your Own Business,” adding another dimension to the sold out show.
“We’re ‘spose to be putting out a a record soon,” exclaims Glover before playing “Who Shot Ya?” (the Notorious B.I.G cover) from the new forthcoming album. Ballad “Nothingness” follows featuring some moving vocals from Glover. “Elvis is Dead” involved the audience singing the chorus, and ended with the song morphing into “Hound Dog.” The most poignant song of the night is “Open Letter (To a Landlord)” written by Reid and poet Tracie Morris about the gentrification of New York City’s East Village in the late 80’s, with the demolition of buildings, forcing out residents who had lived there for generations to make way for the yuppies.
“Love Rears its Ugly Head” pulls at sentimental heart strings and a gargantuan rendition of “Cult of Personality” leaves everyone gobsmacked at its sheer intensity. For the encore, “Glamour Boys” and a lightning speed version of the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” blended with the band’s theme song “What’s Your Favourite Colour?” prompts everyone to answer “Living Colour,” a fitting finale to a behemoth of a show.
After taking their bows, Reid, Wimbish and Glover jump into the crowd to shake hands and embrace those fortunate enough to be close to the stage and Glover asked the crowd to meet them at the Merch stand where they would sign “everything.”
Living Colour put on 2 solid hours of the best funk, thrash, metal we’d ever seen, putting bands half their age to shame and annihilating all rock poseurs in their wake.