May 17, 2006
American hard rock band Living Colour broke onto the scene in the late '80s with the hit Cult of Personality, which attacked our fascination with celebrity and analysed the rise of political leaders.
The band will perform the Grammy award-winning song in Melbourne this week as part of its spontaneous whirlwind tour — at a time when the public's fascination with celebrity has reached saturation point.
"That song is not so much about the people, but the energy that creates the attraction, the fame and the popularity," says drummer Will Calhoun.
"The world right now is in the age of mediocrity … Imagine if singers like Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye had an opportunity like American Idol?" Calhoun says. "Great talent comes from breeding talent, but these days it's easier to buy a computer and become a producer than it is to go out and learn an instrument …"
The band, whose hard rock sound was styled on Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone and Santana, signed to Epic records after being discovered by Mick Jagger, but split in 1995 after four albums. It reformed for 2003's Collideoscope, which incorporated hip hop, drum 'n' bass, and indigenous sounds and addressed issues such as land rights, immigration and 9/11.
With only a week's notice, the band chose to play three consecutive nights at the Metro Nightclub. It is the first time a big-name artist has played a series of spontaneous shows in Melbourne since Prince's 2004 tour. And the band's old fans will be hard-pressed to find something more entertaining this week in Melbourne.
"It's good for both of us," says Calhoun. "For the artist, it's good to show up in front of an audience at short notice, on the fly. We can't take anything for granted — we don't have posters all over town, the radio's not playing our new record — so we've just got our live show to impress people.
Living Colour play the Metro tonight and tomorrow.