It’s the hottest day on record here in the UK and everyone is melting. The last thing I really want to do is spend the evening in a packed club that is notoriously hot, even in winter. But Living Colour are celebrating 30 years of ‘Vivid’ by playing their debut album top to bottom, and it’s not too often they come to town. So I’m happy to brave the heat and continue to sweat. Hey, its rock ‘n’ roll kids, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
First up on a 3 band bill we have Wisconsin blues merchant Jared James Nichols. This dude gives me serious hair envy! He looks like John Sykes circa 1988 and plays a black Les Paul like a bluesier Zakk Wylde. In fact, his 3 piece band come across like Wylde’s short lived Pride & Glory project, albeit a blues heavy version. Even heavily tattooed bassist Elvis has double denim, a trucker cap and probably smells of engine oil!
Jared’s unusual playing style sets him apart from his contemporaries. He doesn’t use a pick and yet creates a helluva tone. His voice hits the spot too, it’s raw, bluesy and downright righteous! His rhythm section are solid, and songwise they seem to come from a 70’s classic rock direction. A very British sound, I’m talking early Whitesnake meets Bad Company here.
Now, we all love a bit of Toby Jepson, right? Whether it be Little Angels, fronting Gun or behind the desk producing the likes of Virginmarys. But right now Toby is doing what he loves best and what we love seeing him do, and that’s strapping on a guitar and fronting a new and exciting rock ‘n’ roll band.
Wayward Sons are on the verge of releasing their sophomore second album, and I say ‘sophomore’ without even hearing it, as the tracks played tonight stand tall above their collective output so far to these ears. I like Wayward Sons, they are a solid, traditional rock ‘n’ roll band and live they just get better every time I see them.
Toby is as always an engaging frontman who has the ability to whip up a crowd with ease, he should do, he’s been doing it for over 30 years! With a flying V strapped over his shoulder, he leads his band through a high energy set consisting of road worn tracks from their debut album and a few newbies thrown in for good measure. The likes of opener ‘Alive’ and ‘Ghost’ are early crowd-pleasers that go down a storm.
The title track of their upcoming album ‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be’ is played and sounds very promising, as does brand new single ‘Joke’s On You’. The politically charged, socially aware lyrics make them a band to pay attention to in more ways than one right now.
Backed by a tight unit; guitarist Sam Wood, bassist Nic Wastell, drummer Phil Martini and keyboard player Dave Kemp, Toby Jepson has a tight band behind him that have the energy and the vitality to take them to bigger stages worldwide.
The band play a blinder and win over the Living Colour massive with ease, in fact, I have a suspicion many were here for Wayward Sons as much as Living Colour. Wayward Sons evoke the sound of both ’70s and 80’s rock but still retain a modern edge. To me, they come on like UFO meets Thin Lizzy, although I might be swayed by Nic’s Pete Way stage moves and Sam’s Scott Gorham looks.
We all sweat profusely and the band gives it their all. Toby jokes he’s knackered and Nic has more energy a man of his age should possess. They suffer sound problems and we lose Sam’s guitar for the last few songs, but it doesn’t matter one iota, Wayward Sons triumphed tonight. A band with a growing following and a reputation for great live shows. Expect headline status from now on.
Living Colour has always been one of those bucket list bands I needed to see live and up until a couple of years ago, I thought it would never happen. Yet, I finally did see them play and at my favourite venue too! Now they return to The Brudenall again. It’s not too often a band of this stature plays a club-sized venue and this is a must-see gig for me.
Interestingly, the themes of racism and discrimination that Living Colour blasted out on MTV three decades ago are still prevalent today, if not more so. While ‘Vivid’ was Living Colour’s most successful album, it was not ‘my’ album, that was ‘Stain’, constantly drummed into me by my Living Colour mad brother when it was released. Surprisingly tonight they open with ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ from that very same album.
As you would expect, the band are as tight as ever. The rhythm section of Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish are one of the best in the business, the mental guitar histrionics of Vernon Reid are a joy to behold and then we have frontman Corey Glover. One of the most underrated voices in rock ‘n’ roll, a man whose vocals are still as good as they were back in the day.
The aforementioned opener sounds great, the chugging riff, the brooding, yet funky bass and those killer vocals sound fantastic. Nice opener! Corey thanks the appreciative crowd and lets those who don’t already know that tonight is a celebration of an album that came out 30 years ago and they would be playing it in its entirety. As he says, playing a lot of songs they haven’t played in years, but have been playing a lot lately. A great roar of appreciation follows as the intro tape introduces ‘Cult Of Personality’. Their biggest hit is 30 years old and sounds as fresh now as it did back then. We may all be dripping with sweat, but the band is only just warming up. Shit, Corey still has his jacket on for chrissakes!
‘I Wanna Know’ sounds ace, one of my favourite songs off this album actually, great to hear it live. ‘Middleman’ is a masterclass, played with ease as we sing along to the refrain, and the early Chili Peppers feel of ‘Funny Vibe’ just comes across so well live. Hearing these songs, and in order, takes me back to a certain time, it’s a proper nostalgia trip.
For me, the focal point of tonight’s show is bassist Doug Wimbish. Up there with the likes of Billy Sheehan, he has to be one of the best in the business and a cool cat to boot. Some sort of funky bass witch doctor, he conjures up mental, other-worldly noises from his instrument using a combination of pedals and actual magic!
It has to be said the sound tonight is not the best, there is even heckling to get Vernon’s guitar turned up, and while the singer and guitarist make a joke of it, the bassist visibly just wants to get on with the show. Even taking to the mic to say this is a live show, four guys with instruments… it is what it is.
Some of the notes Corey hits are outstanding tonight, as he holds the mic away from him and sings stretching to the limits of his range with ease, you realise he is up there with the likes of Ty Taylor as one of the greatest living soulful vocalists in rock ‘n’ roll right now. Amazing stuff.
‘Open Letter (To A Landlord)’ sounds fantastic and ‘Broken Hearts’ takes things down, full of sentiment and feels. I wonder if they are ever tired of playing a song like ‘Glamour Boys’? It sounds great, although I’m a bit disappointed it wasn’t the calypso version they did last time they played here. They funk things up nicely with the Prince-like ‘What’s Your Favorite Color?’, a personal highlight of the show that hasn’t dated, I fact I think it just improved with age.
Glover and Reid’s onstage banter is great. The pair take the piss out of each other constantly, with Reid leading a “Corey-Corey’ chant to a band mate he calls “the most stylish man in the building”.
No bass solo tonight (thank god!) and for the encore tonight we get an emotive ‘Love Rears Its Ugly Head’ and a killer ‘Elvis Is Dead/Hound Dog’ extended jam out.
The trend of bands playing albums in their entirety is sometimes met with caution. Knowing the setlist beforehand can take away from the expectation or the element of surprise of a live gig, yet other times it works and can just floor you. Tonight was the latter. Also, the growing trend of established, big bands playing intimate venues is alright by me any day of the week (especially in this venue).
Living Colour delivered a masterclass of funk rock tonight. While the sound guy needed slapping (the levels were all over the place) it did not detract from a most excellent set. All three bands were outstanding tonight and all different in their own way. From young guns playing the blues to someone old doing something new, to the established being steeped in nostalgia, it was a top night all round.
Author: Ben Hughes