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Taken from The Morning Call (Oct 14, 2017)

REVIEW: Living Colour’s concert at Penn’s Peak a ‘Vivid’ reminder of why it’s so important — and so good

by John J. Moser, Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call
All Pictures: © Brian Hineline / SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL

Vernon Reid, left, and Cory Glover of Living Colour perform at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on October 13.

Back in the 1980s, with hip-hop burgeoning and funk getting a shot of revival from Prince, it was unusual for a group of black musicians to be playing hard rock, especially on MTV.

Living Colour not only did it, but did it exceptionally well, winning Grammy Awards for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Thirty years later, not much has changed in that regard. But Living Colour is still is doing what it always has, and just as well, as it showed with its concert Friday at Penn’s Peak near Jim Thorpe.

Its 18-song, hour-and-40-minute set was filled with not only rock, but its distinctive amalgamation of rock, blues, funk and jazz.

It started the show with the cover of seminal rock-blues artist Robert Johnson’s “Preachin’ Blues” from its new album, “Shade,” released last month as the band’s first disc of new material in eight years. The band was ripping and roaring, singer Corey Glover shooting vocal sparks.

Vernon Reid of Living Colour performs at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on October 13.

The band quickly tapped its 1988 high-water mark disc “Vivid” for “Middle Man,” showing just how hard that disc rocked – in addition to stinging funk – and followed it with the thudding rock of “Wall” from the 1993 disc “Stain,” reminding just how good that music was in the1990s.

“Desperate People,” also from “Vivid,” was funkier rock, with Doug Wimbish plucking his bass, though it also offered a long solo by guitarist Vernon Reid and a scream at the end by Glover.

In all, the group played four songs from “Vivid,” which was so groundbreaking when it came out nearly 30 years ago.

That included, a third of the way into the set, perhaps its best song, the MTV hit “Glamour Boys.” Though perhaps not as sparkly and fresh as it was on MTV, the song still was so good after all these years, and the audience – disappointingly small at less than 300 – gleefully provided the “I’m Fierce” and “Woo!” chants.

“And yes, it’s still bad—my credit is bad,” Glover told the audience, referring to the song’s lyrics.

After a hard-rocking “Ignorance is Bliss” from “Stain,” Living Colour concentrated on the new disc, playing five of the six cuts from the 13-song disc it that it played during the show.

A cover of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya” had the band rocking out on old school hip-hop, but “Who’s That” was the most straight-forward rocker of the night to that point. It really wailed, and it seemed the band was adding more intensity to the new material.

“Come On” had “Shaft”-like scratchy guitar funk, and ”Freedom of Expression” was tight funk-rock.

Doug Wimbish of Living Colour performs at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on October 13.

And after “Swirl,” an eight-minute solo by bassist Doug Wimbish, the group played for the first time live the new “Program,” a Led Zeppelin-flavored thumping funk-rocker.

The show closed with a run of Living Colour’s best-known songs: its 1991 Dance chart hit “Elvis in Dead/Hound Dog”; its Alternative Top 10 “Love Rears Its Ugly Head,” forcefully presented with Glover singing a falsetto squeal.Then, after a nine-minute drum solo by Will Calhoun, the group brought guest guitarist Michael Hampton of Parliament Funkadelic on stage to play Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” – a funk-rock band playing straight-up Clapton.

Will Calhoun of Living Colour performs at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on October 13.

The show ended with an eight-minute version of Living Colour’s biggest hit, its breakthrough “Cult of Personality,” as Glover walked along the wooded railing into the audience. There was no encore.

That last song was the one that won Living Colour its Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. At the time, it was groundbreaking. And today, it’s still unusual.

And that’s why Living Colour continues to be so good.


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