“Live at CBGBs” kicks off with, what else, “Cult of Personality,” the song that earned Living Colour the blip on the radar it so rightfully enjoyed. The rendition heard here is surprisingly ragged, even if there are some solid ‘80s metal shrieking vocals thrown in in the bridge. Fortunately, as the set goes on, the band tightens, and by the time it reaches “Middle Man,” things are in fine form.
The bluesy and therefore aptly titled “Soldier's Blues” is the highlight of the set, because it's not often that you hear such a straightforward blues song injected with so much distortion and Rob Halford-esque screams. The gospel intro of “Open Letter to a Landlord” is a departure from the album version, and throws even more flavor into the set, in which genres are mere playthings.
While “Live at CBGBs” isn't a terribly good career retrospective, it's a good portrait of a band that, for a time, could talk right down to earth in a language that everybody could understand.