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Live Reviews : Living Colour @ The Triffid, Brisbane 14/05/2017

By on May 15, 2017

Living Colour return to Brisbane 24 years after their last visit to perform at the cavernous Triffid venue in Newstead.

In a recent interview with Living Colour’s drummer, Will Calhoun, I asked if he believes Living Colour and other loosely defined ‘funk metal’ bands such as 24-7 Spyz, King’s X and Fishbone receive enough credit from the critics, given their ongoing contribution to metal and rock. His answer? To quote the man, “My answer is a resounding no”.

So what is it about Living Colour, 24 years after their last visit to Brisbane, on a Sunday night mind you, that leads to so many fans attending, and from what I observed, genuinely enjoying and appreciating the spectacle of the bands performance?

Lets start with the rapturous response to the final song from the supremely underrated album Stain (’93), played as the second song in the bands set. “Wall” is a thunderous lyrical tirade backed by the slap and thumb bass of maestro Doug Wimbish. Guitarist Vernon Reid delivers some deep and dirty heavy metal riffing during this track and it struck me how much Reid’s live guitar tone here is reminiscent of death metal’s greatest living guitarist, Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel. It was as recent as ’14 that I observed Azagthoth blitz through choice cuts from the seminal album Covenant (’93) so that comparison is based on recent experiences.

There is sincerity and a sense of humour to Living Colour. During the bands fourth selection, “Mind Your own Business”, it looked like vocalist Corey Glover unwittingly managed to unplug Reid’s guitar. The rhythm section and Glover continued on while Reid hammed it up for the audience. The deep groove of Wimbish’s bass echoed around the venue for a truly unique moment. While completely unscripted, that moment will be a sentimental favourite of mine as the sound of the slap and thumb bass of Wimbish’s outstanding playing carried Glover’s dulcet tones. It could easily have continued for far longer than it took for Reid’s guitar tech to issue a new guitar, such is the mastery of melody and rhythm the band individually and collectively display.

The band opted for a diverse set that included hits and favourites such as “Love Rears Its Ugly Head”, “Cult Of Personality”, “Times Up” and “Glamour Boys”. “Funny Vibe”, “Bi” and “Open Letter to a Landlord” were forgivable omissions given the strength of the set list. It rings true that a band with as many fan favourites as Living Colour can only fit so many tracks into the allocated time available for a performance.

Both Wimbish and Calhoun were given ample time to display their considerable talents via solo spots. Wimbish offered a solo number that wouldn’t have looked out of place on one of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani’s ‘G3’ tours. Bassists like Wimbish make a mockery of claims that the bass is a ‘rhythm only’ instrument; his solo performance is reminiscent of the type offered by one of bass guitars genuine iconoclasts, Victor Wooten.

Calhoun delivers a rave and dub inspired solo selection, his bright blue drumsticks fitting the cavernous ambience of the venue with the trippy lead up to the blue drumstick bravado giving the lighting tech I was standing near throughout the performance a decent workout.

Given the lyrical content of the track “Elvis is Dead”, it was almost surprising to hear that the band included more than a bar or two of a faithfully (and seriously excellent…) rendition of the subject matter’s “Hound Dog”. Of course, this was offered in the context of the bands wicked sense of humour!

Throughout the evening, both Glover and Reid exchanged the type of banter reserved for life long friends and family members. On more than one occasion, Glover feigned to clobber Reid with his mic stand while Calhound and Wimbish exchanged knowing glances and shook their heads toward the audience.

For the trainspotters the bands set was rounded out by “Middle Man”, “Desperate People”, “Ignorance”, “Who shot Ya?” and “Nothingness” (I don’t think I missed any!).

After tonight’s performance, and from what I read about their Melbourne gig… let’s hope it doesn’t take another 24 years for the band to visit Brisbane. The bands new album is called Shade, I for one, am waiting with genuine anticipation and sense a successful tour of Australia if they return within the next two years.

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of QLD. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @i_c_e_man