Living Colour: A Little Pale
Monday, March 1, 2004; Page C10
As powerful and great a hard rock band as Living Colour surely is, it's not hard to be disappointed by the combo. The show Living Colour gave at the 9:30 club on Saturday didn't add up to the sum of its parts.
But, oh, what parts! On "Sacred Ground," Corey Glover used all the tools a heavy-metal lead-throat could ever need, shrieking like Axl Rose one verse and roaring like #8 of Slipknot the next. Standard rock bass lines have never posed a challenge to Doug Wimbish; at one point in this set he staved off boredom by playing a bass solo with his teeth, a trick hazardous enough to make the producers of "Jackass" wince. Drummer Will Calhoun pounded like Dave Grohl and hit the skins as fleetly as Buddy Rich. And during "Ignorance Is Bliss," Vernon Reid squeezed what for most other guitarists would be a week's worth of notes into a single solo.
In an era when the guitar god is going the way of the high-carb entree, Reid, who formed Living Colour in New York in the mid-1980s, still carries himself like a superhero. He wears his instrument very high on the torso, a position more likely to be used by a hunter stalking jungle prey than a guitarist working the stage. But while Reid is far and away the most celebrated member of Living Colour, his contributions to his band's signature sound are also the least important.
Only because Calhoun and Wimbish keep the bottom end so heavy and so dependable is Reid free to fly off on his lightning solos. And when delivered in quantities as large as they were Saturday, Reid's warp-speed voyages along the fret board become indistinguishable from each other. A wonderful break from Reid's dominance of the spotlight came during "Nothingness," a lead-heavy power ballad. Glover's repetition of the lyric "Nothing lasts forever" over the controlled din of his mates took the band closer to precious than Living Colour normally gets.
(*note - we were present at this show and this writer could not be any more incorrect. The writer should stop listening to his nu-metal pop hits on his mp3 player and revisit this show. From the moment of Power of Soul to the Tomorrow Never Knows/This Is the Life jam, Living Colour blazed!)