Day 1 (Best laid plans become reality)
Here I sit on a transatlantic flight bound for Minneapolis with my best mate Matt Seddon. Last night we saw Living Colour play at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, tomorrow we visit Paisley Park, then fly to San Francisco. The start of a carefully planned 10 day road trip that will ram in all the sights, sounds and experiences that Southern California can offer.
So, how did we get to this point you may ask? Well, in the summer of 2016 Sedd and I both lost our brothers within 6 weeks of each other. My brother Dan after a short battle with cancer and Sedd’s brother Andy to a heart attack. Obviously, these events changed our lives forever, it made us both re-evaluate our lives and what we take out of it in the future. Life is short and sometimes it takes a tragic life experience to give reality a jolt and make you question life, the universe and everything.
We are both music lovers and musicians, as were our brothers. Sedd and I spend our Saturday nights together drinking, putting the world to rights, talking music and planning things we may never actually do. This trip is about doing some of those things before it’s too late.
Call it a voyage of discovery, a pilgrimage or simply a tribute to our brothers, but what started as a chat about how cool it would be to visit Paisley Park quickly snowballed into a rock ‘n’ roll roadtrip. We are both Prince fans as were our brothers, Minneapolis seemed the perfect place to start. Then catch a plane over to San Francisco for a few days, hire a Ford Mustang and drive the Pacific coast road down to Monterey, onto LA for a few days and end our trip in Las Vegas. Take in the sights, the sounds, the history and maybe catch a few bands too, who knows.
As it worked out, the trip is bookended by two bucket list gigs at my favourite North Yorkshire venue The Brudenell Social Club. The day after we return from Las Vegas Redd Kross support The Melvins and the night before we fly out, we witness Living Colour play a sold out show there.
Dan would’ve been so jealous. Living Colour were one of his favourite bands. I remember when he got their third album ‘Stain’, he would play it over and over to me. Being a drummer he would bang on passionately about Will Calhoun and his playing, the tempo changes they use in the likes of ‘Mind Your Own Business’ and so on. He had been a fan since their first album, but he never got the chance to see them live and now I had the chance to do it for him.
The new album ‘Shade’ is a great return to form and this UK tour of smaller venues the perfect opportunity to catch a bucket list band who rarely visit our shores.
They open with Robert Johnson’s ‘Preachin’ Blues’ and follow with the classic ‘Wall’, a fiery political statement, it’s an early highlight. Yet it’s a slow burner of a gig to be honest, although they sound great the band do seem to be holding back. Where’s the energy, have they still got it?
Bassist Doug Wimbish is mesmerising to watch, what a player. He does this mad, dramatic pull off thing on the strings that looks and sounds smart. Singer Corey Glover, dressed in baggy gear, an over-sized brown leather jacket, cloth cap and specs, looks like an extra from Starsky & Hutch. He seems subdued for the first few songs, maybe jet lag or maybe it’s just his style, I can’t quite figure it out. In complete contrast the ever smiling Vernon Reid pulls off staggering leads at the speed of light to his side.
It takes a few songs to get going tonight, but damn me if Living Colour don’t pull off one of the gigs of the year. Tonight they play a few songs that they have not played so far on this tour. So, as well as the usual suspects we get a raw and undiluted ‘Elvis Is Dead’, extended and jammed out with crowd participation, even breaking into a few bars of ‘Hound Dog’ with added Corey hip thrusting. “I’m gonna regret that in the morning” he jokes.
A surprise calypso tinged ‘Glamour Boys’ is an amazing highlight with full band backing harmonies that sound frankly amazing, it takes the song to another level. The extended bass and drum solos, although impressive, I could live without. While Doug’s soloing to his own looped bass line was highly inventive and impressive for all the musos in attendance, they could’ve fitted three more songs in the set.
The new songs mix well in the set. The angst ridden ‘Gunfight’ continues to show that this band always had something to say and they deliver their diatribe with passion. ‘Cult Of Personality’ ends a pretty much dream set from a band I never thought I would get to see.
As they leave the stage Doug announces they will be at the merch stand to sign anything that is put in front of them. If we weren’t getting up at 5 am to catch a plane to America we would’ve stayed for a chat, but tonight was about seeing Living Colour play live…job done.
A delayed flight from Manchester is soundtracked by Junkyard, Prince and The Foo Fighters along with the highly enjoyable new Alien film and the quirky Colossus starring Anne Hathaway, a film that is much better than it sounds in the plot.
We change flights at Atlanta and miss our connection. As we fly over diminutive estates of identical houses that look like monopoly pieces scattered between the miles of lush, green trees, I realise I forgot to load the phone with music, so the soundtrack to Minneapolis comes courtesy of a Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors live album and a Juliette Lewis EP on shuffle.
We have been up since 5am UK time, that’s 19 hours and counting, I wonder if we’ve flown over Butch Walker’s house?