July 27, 2013
The Kessler Theater
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Roy Turner
Photos by Roy Turner
Timeless Cult & Vivid Personality Live On Stage At The Kessler
Corey Glover, front man for 1980s rock band Living Colour asked the crowd at Kessler Theatre as he took the stage to a standing ovation for the band. "It's been awhile, huh? So let's get this thing done."
And with that, the group kicked in to blues-rock legend Robert Johnson's Preachin' Blues, with Glover's voice a wail and guitarist Vernon Reid ripping a dirty slide. It was a shot fired across the bow of expectations. Yes, it's been 25 years since the release of the band's hallmark debut disc, Vivid. But if anything, the band has improved - including Glover, his hair white and looking fatherly, but still totally fierce.
As promised, the band began to celebrate this milestone by performing the record in its entirety. Before you could even hear the radio voice-over prelude to the LP's first song and their most recognizable hit, Cult of Personality, the crowd of perhaps near 500, already were cheering at the song's intro, thrust fists in the air, and sang every note on the chanted chorus.
The question on how their album's songs have held up through the years can certainly be debated, but the vibe and the relentless energy cannot. Their songs had such a weird, fun, at times VH1 Story Teller's thing going on - while other times they were really playful/sloppy that the really intimate venue, like the Kessler, only brought out this feeling that we were being shown something really special, wart and all.
After a false start on the next song, I Want to Know, Glover joked, "Wow, we're old!" But then the band burned through the song. Its melody motivated by a muscular groove, its harmonized vocals over hot rock, that could have sounded silly if hearing it in your car earlier that afternoon, but now, it brought nothing but smiles. "Maybe not that old," Glover said after its finish.
There were so many, "what were we/yall thinking back then?" moments that were not met with embarrassment but almost with remiss. It's hard to believe now that the painfully mediocre The Glamour Boys was the lead single to this monster LP. They played it with a vibe of," yeah we can't believe it either, but isn't' this fun? ", the song still has such a ridiculously good groove that Glover couldn't help but boogie about the stage. The crowd was also caught up, shouting the call-and-response chorus of "I'm fierce!" and "Whoo!" with gusto and thrust fists. What's Your Favorite Colour? was almost as good - fabulously funky, and the fans still shouting back the answer to the title: "Living Colour!"
The momentum never flagged from that high point over the songs that followed in this near two-hour housequake of a show. If Living Colour was out to prove its vitality, the audience was ready to enjoy the ride. Middle Man was hot and tight, but still expansive. Desperate People had Glover singing extremely well, from the deeper end of is register to an impressive wail at the end. While Living Colour in its heyday drew attention for its social consciousness, the night was mostly about great music. But the message occasionally did slip in. A 12-minute Open Letter (To a Landlord) was a church service, starting with the hymn Amazing Grace (that Glover dedicated to local fallen guitar hero Dimebag Darrell of Pantera fame) and the rest of the song equally as spiritual - as well as fiercely funky. Glover seemed to dance in the spirit and added a Prince-like scream.
After a five-minute Which Way to America? Glover said simply, "To the best of my recollection, that's how the record goes, that's the whole thing right there" and the crowd responded with a cheer. Twenty-five years later, the album still stands up to its Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance and MTV Best New Artist Awards.
But they weren't finished. After a long drum solo, the band returned for an encore of two songs from the 1990 album Time's Up. First came the Top 10 alternative hit Love Rears Its Ugly Head, and then the night closed with a six-minute version of the LP's title track that morphed into James Brown's Sex Machine that led Glover into the crowd and all over the venue, up the stairs and covered both sides of the balcony. "Get up!" Glover yelled to the crowd, which roared back, "Get on up!" And continued to do so while sitting in people's seats, taking pictures, and just kicking so many asses.
It, indeed, had been awhile, as Glover said. And reminded how good it was - and still is - neither he nor the crowd wanted it to end.
Preachin' Blues (Robert Johnson cover)
Cult of Personality
I Want to Know
Open Letter (To a Landlord) (w/ Amazing Grace)
Memories Can't Wait (Talking Heads cover)
What's Your Favorite Color? (Theme Song)
Which Way to America?
Love Rears Its Ugly Head
Get Up (I Feel Like Being a)
Sex Machine (James Brown cover)