TVD Live: Living Colour at Rams Head, 2/10

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PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | In 1988, Living Colour burst onto the scene and took the world by storm with their smash hit “Cult of Personality.” Their sound—an amalgam of punk, funk, soul, jazz, rock, and metal, conveyed messages of tough social issues through a layer of fantastically technical music. After reuniting in 2000 and staying busy with group and individual projects, Living Colour is back out on the road before they finish their sixth studio album later this year. On Tuesday night, the destination was Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD where the audience was seated but the energy was high.

The venue, while very nice, seemed to be an odd setting for a heavier band such as Living Colour with a seated crowd and table service. As the band took the stage, this sentiment was echoed by guitarist Vernon Reid as he welcomed the crowd to “Dinner Metal, Part Three.” Reid fitted a slide onto his finger and led them into “Preachin’ Blues,” a heavy blues number from their forthcoming album, Shade.

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Frontman Corey Glover was dapper in his slacks and newsboy hat and his voice belted out the lyrics with ease. The band went right into the heavy groove of “Ignorance is Bliss,” then into “Desperate People” from their debut album. The sound was crisp and did the music justice. Doug Wimbish’s deep bass sound shook the earth and was complimented by the dexterous drumming of Will Calhoun. Throughout the set, Reid continuously displayed why he is among the guitar elite. On “Middle Man,” his deft fingerwork was superbly complemented by the complex bassline and funky popping of Wimbish.

After the fusion jazz-inspired opening of “Funny Vibe,” Glover made his way through the crowd as he sang with Reid and Wimbish providing vocals from the stage. One of the night’s surprises came next in the form of a metal version of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?” The sampling of police radios and sirens worked well through the song and new life was breathed into the Biggie classic.

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After a stunning rendition of “Love Rears Its Ugly Head,” Sticking to the Time’s Up album, they kicked into high gear with a supercharged version of “Type,” moving at warp speed and considerably heavier than the album version. Corey Glover experimented his way through the song, ranging from standard singing to low, metalesque growls briefly, then the song switched gears into a reggae sound. Towards the end of the song, Corey really belted it out, with the repeated line “Everything that goes around, comes around,” turning into a vocal solo repeated with passion.

After “Memories Can’t Wait,” the band exited the stage, leaving only Doug Wimbish on stage for a bass solo. Rather than play a huge, “Look what I can do” type of solo, he played a beautiful composition that was a song unto itself. Using a looper pedal, he laid down a bassline that repeated, then hit an effects pedal for a different sound and played a harmony on top of the rhythm. Adding layer upon layer onto the song, Wimbish was quite amazing, and owned the stage all on his own for a few minutes.

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The band returned, and played “This Little Pig” before leaving the stage again, this time for a solo by drummer extraordinaire Will Calhoun. While the solos showed off the musicians’ talents and were very impressive, I couldn’t help but yearn for more album cuts from the full band.

The band returned once again and kicked things back into high gear with the energetic, punk-tinged “Time’s Up.” After a brief pause, the words of Malcolm X flowed from the speakers – “… And during the few moments that we have left, … We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.” The crowd cheered as it recognized the sample as it led into Living Colour’s most recognizable riff, and roared as Reid began “Cult of Personality.” The band sounded every bit as good performing their signature song as they did in 1988, and Glover encouraged everyone to stand for the final song of the evening.

Living Colour hasn’t lost a step, and their sound is as vibrant as in the ’80s—and the band is more creative than ever. The only ones disappointed on Tuesday were the ones who missed this show.

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