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March 13, 2024

Extreme & Living Colour Prove Fiery Lead Guitars & Vocals Still Rule At Orlando’s House Of Blues

via Glideagazine

Though rock radio in the 1980s was dominated by awful, corporate hair metal bands, it was also the birth of several great movements, such as the alternative scene in the Pacific Northwest and the thrash metal scene. Then there were bands like Extreme and Living Colour, who have finally joined forces for a tour this year. Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt said both acts are from “the Island of the Misfit Bands because no one knows what to do with them.” Neither band fits comfortably in any genre, but on this night in Orlando at the House of Blues on March 8th, both acts showed why their music has stood the test of time.

Living Colour kicked off the show with a 45-minute set showcasing its unique blend of metal, funk, jazz, punk, and more. The setlist ignored songs from the post-reunion albums, instead focusing on the first three releases. Songs like “Middle Man” and “Ignorance Is Bliss” showed the power of pairing Doug Wimbish’s funky bass grooves and propulsive Will Calhoun beats with Vernon Reid’s infectious guitar riffs.

Those riffs just kept coming. Though he’s most known for his guitar work in “Cult of Personality,” his fusion of reggae and rock in “Glamour Boys” and his fiery aggression in “Time’s Up” also stood out. In the latter song, the band seamlessly shifted from rapid-fire thrash metal to mid-tempo funk grooves while throwing in free-flowing jazz. Holding everything together was singer Corey Glover. His soulful delivery added flavor to the genre-hopping music while belting enough power for the heaviest moments.

Wimbish, who joined the band in 1992, has also done session work for trailblazing hip-hop acts like Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. To honor that work, the band played a medley of some of those groups’ hits, including “Jump On It,” “Rapper’s Delight,” and “The Message.”

Living Colour closed the set with its signature hit, “Cult of Personality.” Glover left the stage and sang most of the song while moving through the crowd, high-fiving fans and belting out his classic lyrics about political celebrity that may be more relevant now than when they were penned in 1987.

Extreme followed with an energetic set that showcased the band’s musical chops, especially Bettencourt’s guitar virtuosity. At one point in the show, Bettencourt asked how many guitarists were in attendance, and hundreds responded. It’s not hard to understand why. Throughout the show, Bettencourt showed off some of the best six-string shredding that had ever graced the stage. But he’s not just a guitar hero shredder. In songs like “It (’s a Monster)” and “Rest in Piece,” he laid down bruising rhythms and intricate melodies. And then there’s his twangy 12-string shuffle in “Hole Hearted,” which somehow sounds better live.

Watching Bettencourt play can be equally inspiring and disheartening for an amateur guitarist, but Bettencourt offered encouragement. “It doesn’t matter if you play in an arena, in a garage, or your basement. When you hold one of these in your hands, that’s your superpower,” he said.

Bettencourt isn’t just a virtuoso player; he’s also a great showman. Singer Gary Cherone shares that penchant for showmanship. During the set, Cherone ran and twirled about the stage, climbed speakers, contorted his body, and wielded the microphone stand like a weapon. His raspy voice was as powerful as ever, aside from a few times when he struggled to hit the highest notes.

Bettencourt handled most of the stage banter, telling jokes and interesting stories compiled over 38 years of touring, including a great story about getting scammed when buying a hat he thought was rare. “A lot of people think Pornograffitti is our first album, but we actually had one before that,” he said. The band then played a medley of songs from its debut album.

After tearing through a dozen upbeat songs melding metal, funk, and glam, Extreme slowed things down. “This is my favorite part of the show because I finally get to sit down,” Bettencourt said. Sitting with an acoustic guitar, Bettencourt wowed the crowd by jamming through the instrumental “Midnight Express” with impressive speed and precision. Cherone then joined him for an abbreviated version of “Hurricane” and the band’s signature sing-along ballad, “More Than Words.”

Bassist Pat Badger and drummer Kevin Figueiredo then joined them to finish the regular set with several more aggressive rockers, culminating with “Get the Funk Out.” After a brief break, the band reemerged for an encore that featured two new songs, the power ballad “Small Town Beautiful” and the heavy “Rise.”

At times heavy, at times soft and soothing, and always nostalgic, Extreme and Living Colour provided a night that celebrated musical prowess, diversity, and shying away from the well-worn path.