Live Thoughts: Living Colour at Mill City Nights
(Guitarist Vernon Reid and singer Corey Glover at Mill City Nights, 11-1-2013. Photo by Atom Robinson)
Guitarist Vernon Reid and singer Corey Glover at Mill City Nights, 11-1-2013. Photo by Atom RobinsonTo be honest, I have mixed feelings about album retrospective tours like Roger Waters playing The Wall or Roger Daltry touring Tommy. I mean, I have the albums. I can listen to them any time I want. Why would I want to watch a band play songs from a limited segment of their output, in the order that I already know? Half the fun of seeing a concert is the “what are they gonna play next” feeling that crests before each song, right?
Seeing Living Colour play their seminal hard rock album “Vivid” cleared up why one might enjoy this kind of concert. There was something familiar and comforting about hearing those songs in that specific order, but it allowed the band to branch out from familiar territory to drive deeper into the songs and pull threads in a way they probably weren’t able to while they were touring the albums originally. During their fantastic set at Mill City Nights, Living Colour showed that, 25 years after their debut album’s release, they’re still an amazing, funky, hard driving rock band that can play circles around nearly anyone else.
Singer Corey Glover, guitar god Vernon Reid, and drummer Will Calhoun recorded Vivid in 1988 with bassist Muzz Skillings. The album went double platnium, the lead single won a Grammy, and it’s pretty solidly recognized as one of the great albums of the 80s. It wasn’t just that it was the best metal album of 1988, it wove through deep funk, and jangly, reggae-inspired pop, and they did it better than anyone else at the time.
The crushing riff that opens “Cult of Personality” is easily one of the most recognizable phrases in pop music, and the crowd’s energy elevated the moment Vernon Reid ripped into it. Throughout the entire show, Reid’s guitar playing was impeccable and downright thrilling.
More impressive, however, was Corey Glover – . I don’t know what I expected, but his voice remains, after two and a half decades, nothing short of extraordinary.
On stage, the members of Living Colour seemed like they were ten feet tall. As the band members made their way through a crowd of fans to shake hands and sign autographs, I was surprised that each of them was a normal height. Doug Wimbish, the bassist who joined the band after their first album seems like a force of nature on stage; he is, after all, the bassist that cranked the classic bassline to Grandmaster Melle Mel’s “White Lines.” I expected him to tower over me. He’s a little shorter than I am.
Mill City Nights provided crisp, punchy sound and a cool vibe for this show. The crowd was largely comprised of middle-aged white dudes who probably, at some point in their teen years, threw down their electric guitars in frustration while trying to play along to this very album. I was among my people. There was even a dude rocking an unironic Rush t-shirt, which was totally wicked.