Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The best laid plans...Living Colour @ CMJ

My Friday night CMJ plan so carefully laid out, was completely shattered when I got a text message from my buddy Kelsey, (front man of Pillow Theory...): "Living Colour acoustic show, Angels and Kings, 10 o'clock:) "I'm so there", I texted back. All prior plans were promptly thrown to the curve (Sorry School of Seven Bells).

A little background on my relationship with Living Colour: "Cult of Personality" was one of those songs where I clearly remember where I was the first time I heard it. I was a musical theatre/teen pop geek that hadn't really discovered anything beyond what was fed to me by TV, radio or school. And although just a child, I had sensed that mainstream entertainment went through massive shifts usually based on political/economic climates or a need for a movement to clearly rebel against the one that came before it. So here I was a young pup with a Jordan Knight poster, memorizing my lines for my school production of Bye, Bye Birdie, faithfully listening to my top 40 station B96 in Chicago.

Cult of Personality comes on out of nowhere and kicks my ass. "When a leader speaks, a leader dies" were not lyrics that were typical of mainstream radio. This song actually scared me, shook me, and gave me a glimpse into the forefront of the next wave of music. It was obvious with that one song that the cultural tides were changing. It wasn't until my adulthood, however, that I would become familiar with the bands full catalog until I caught Medicine Stick (fronted by former Living Colour bass player Muzz Skillings).

Medicine Stick had tapped into a similar "stirred up" type of feeling when I caught his band. Once I found out Muzz had been in Living Colour it compelled me to dive deeper into Living Colour's catalog. I grew to love all phases of the band both with Muzz and (current bassist) Doug Wimbish. And Medicine Stick inspired me to start my own band, edibleRed, which has lasted over a decade.

I arrive an hour early, pleasantly surprised that 1) there was plenty of room (as the show was booked last minute) 2) there was a very interesting band playing before hand, Bern and the Brights an acoustic 5 piece with strings. 3) WRXP who has completely revolutionized commercial radio in New York city was running the night.

Bern and the Brights had an earthy,down home,genre-bending yet folksy feel. Ethereal, introspective and full of quick surprises... a reggae groove here, a ska beat there.... If No Doubt and Jack Johnson were college buddies sharing a bong hit at student housing and jamming...
that would be them....

As Living Colour set up, the only resemblence to an acoustic show was the brushes and scaled down kit donned by Will Calhoun. Corey Glover was fiddliing with the jukebox, Vernon Reid was somewhat under the radar back in the corner and Doug Wimbish was just hanging out and being awesome as usual.

"They said if we play too loud, they're gonna call the cops...obviously they don't know us too well!" exclaimed Big Man Glover (as written on his T-shirt). That would be the first of many zingy one liners... Sonically my favorite thing was the vocal blend between Corey, Vernon and Doug. Vernon's guitars were way down in the mix, yet the "bar band sound" contributed an air of charm. They played the hits, but seemed to be slightly tuned into each other on the newer stuff, namely "Behind the Sun".

Jokingly, Vernon teased the crowd with the "Cult of Personality" riff which inspired screams of "DO IT!!" Glover’s eye rolling and beating the microphone on his head in exasperation greatly contradicted the sheer thrill of the 50 or so people in attendance. It's hard to know what goes through the mind of a frontman of a band that has superb catalog, yet it commonly identified with one song. I briefly felt slighted as a fan. I wished Corey could just roll with it a little more. He then made a joke about being on Youtube saying "Who’s that cover band playing that Living Colour shit". I feel like Glover missed the memo that platinum artists who play in small bars are awesome.

They seriously redeemed things during "Asshole" which was perfect for the bar band version of Living Colour and really brought it home during "Out of my mind" which was unfortunately the last song of the evening. "Don't tell anyone we did this", exclaimed Corey. NO Corey, I am telling EVERYONE... And now I know you were using reverse pychology on me because I saw the "Angels and Kings" links on all of the Living Colour twitter pages. Nicely done, Big Man Glover.

Collette McLafferty, Guest Blogger


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