Live at The Brudenell Club, Leeds 25th July 2019
It’s a sign of the times: Bands touring their big hit album from back in the day. It’s an acceptance that audiences want what they know. Or is it a celebration of an historic high-point? With their peak success in the late eighties to early nineties, Vivid was one of Living Colour’s three albums of that period. Splitting up then reforming in 2000, they have shown themselves still a creative force with three more albums. Tonight, however, is the whole of Vivid, three songs from Time’s Up and a 1993 track. It goes down a storm.
Living Colour are massively engaging. Formed by the guitarist, Vernon Reid, it is no surprise that the guitar is central, loud and frequently mangled. On this very sweaty night, I was sure of a draft by standing near Vernon’s rushing fingers. Vernon and Corey Glover swap banter with each other and Doug Wimbush on bass and Will Calhoun on drums add circus-ring musical flourishes to the chat and piss-taking. The crowd chant’s Corey’s name and he plays up to it. With a side-career as an actor, it’s no surprise. What is a surprise is the energy of the set and the vital commitment.
Songs were beefed up, stretched a bit, kicked up the arse and made to squeal. Vernon’s battered guitar suffered the most but the whole band dripped with sweat. Opening with Ignorance Is Bliss as an appetiser, its samples lead nicely into Vivid, played right through. It helps that the opening track is Cult Of Personality, a big hit, thanks to MTV’s solid rotation. The band move through hard rock to more pop-rock moments (I Want To Know) to funkier pieces and show how revolutionary they were at the time. Letter To A Landlord sees its polemic fly into soul vocal pyrotechnics, Funny Vibe’s fear of blackness message is angry and righteous and Vernon rips the song a new one with his guitar. Memories Can’t Wait continues to be almost unrecognisable as a Talking Heads song. Broken Hearts is very soulful and Corey milks the vocals soul-diva style, Glamour Boys is fun and sarcastic. Favourite Colour and Which Way to America become heavy funk and are just great, while Operation Mind Control is crazily exciting.
A few songs follow to wind things up, drawn from the next album. During Elvis Is Dead I realise just how funky Will Calhoun’s drums are and have been through the evening. The track is even more fun than on record and by the end of the gig everyone is smiling and drained. On the evidence of tonight, Living Colour are still a vital force and Vernon Reid is still the total boss of his guitar.