The New York-based quartet Living Colour made its mark during the administration of George Bush No. 1, disappeared and has reunited and re-emerged during Bush Administration No. 2. As is the case with the political dynasty of that and this era, very little has changed with this rock band. Once hailed as a grand mating of the Bad Brains and Van Halen, Living Colour is still pretty much mining the same lode, with the decoration of a few snazzy loops and samples. Other than that, it’s guitar-driven hard rock, plain and simple. A perfect soundtrack, it would seem, for a club that stands on the very site of the epitome of a more glittering variation on that theme, the late and occasionally lamented Gazzari’s.
Having last played Los Angeles nearly a decade ago, Living Colour’s fan base, however diminished, is still rabid, which might explain why they waited through an interminable intermission before the group took the stage.
Once the legends had arrived and commenced, it was as if it were 1991 and Lollapalooza all over again, the semi-hardcore double-time slam of “Time’s Up” into a ferocious “Middle Man” and through a wickedly accurate cover of Jimi Hendrix’ Band of Gypsies “Power of Soul”.
With their fusion-sized chops and singer Cory Glover’s unflagging hamminess, Living Colour is and was larger than life in their way. Unfortunately, part of their drawing power is based somewhat of Vernon Reid’s guitar histrionics, which can be summed up as a swarm of 16th notes played as fast as possible in every solo, up and down a handful of modes and the blues scale.
Not to be outdone, the 1989 hit “Memo to a Landlord” was prefaced by a solo “gospel” shouting section by Glover that was borderline excruciating. But to fans, it was manna from over-singing heaven. Go figure. A good time was had by all and, as strolls down memory lane go, not without redemption.
Although the band played a handful of new tracks, the best of which was a quasi-ambient piece led in by bassist Doug Wimbish, it was the oldies, as always, that roused the faithful, especially the cheerless “Love Rears Its Ugly Head.” The timelessness of the miserable plaint, as well as the buzzing-fly on frets guitar solo, would appear to be the staples at the center of the appeal for this venerable act.