New Yorkers Living Colour are marking their 30th anniversary by going on tour to play their revolutionary 1988 debut album ‘Vivid’ in full, an album that still stands the test of time and presents powerful messages mostly around themes of political nature about human rights. We were lucky enough to have them coming to Birmingham, taking over The Mill.
Wisconsin-born bluesman Jared James Nichols and his band opened the night with jaw-dropping energy and a lot of lioness hair. The stage was theirs and they definitely knew how to make the most out of it. Nichols’ finger picking guitar techniques effortlessly covered and manipulated a range of sounds delivering some of the finest heavy blues rock you could listen to. The big blonde hair was just a bonus in coaxing the crowd to feel like the 80s metal scene was back.
Nichols treated the crowd with some songs from his last album ‘Black Magic’, released in 2017 and the crowd didn’t need to be persuaded to participate. From the opening ‘Last Chance’ and especially during ‘Can you feel it?’ (reminding of his debut album from 2015, “Old Glory and the Wild Revival”) and ‘Honey Forgive Me’, a big part of the audience vigorously shouted all the words, proving that they didn’t come only for the main act, they came to enjoy the whole show to the maximum. Of course, I believe there were some, like me, who haven’t heard of Jared James Nichols before, and discovered what they have been missing out on.
Coming to an end of a short but nonetheless impressive performance, the trio played the inspiring ‘Nails In My Coffin’, Nichols’ latest single released last month, which is “about overcoming the odds, always pushing forward” and showed once again his spectacular song writing and blistering guitar finesse. They ended their set with a cover of Mountain’s ‘Mississippi Queen’, which became a tradition for their live shows. Before leaving the stage, Nichols made an open invitation for anyone who wanted to drink and have a chat with them upstairs, saying how they just wanted to talk to everyone.
After a small break allowed the crowd to breathe again, everyone was hungry for more. Up next is Wayward Sons, they took over the stage, as front man Toby Jepson expressed how he had lost count of how many times he had been in our “glorious city”.
Their energy and enthusiasm proved (for a second time during this evening) that rock ‘n’ roll is still alive! The five-piece treated the audience with well-crafted heavy rock masterpieces from their debut album ‘Ghosts of Yet to Come’, like ‘Alive’, ‘Don’t Wanna Go’ and ‘Ghost’.
Before playing ‘Any Other Way’, which will be released as part of their new album, Jepson admitted being the first time they’d play it live so “anything can happen”. With this occasion he also announced the new album, “The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be”, coming in October. Wayward Sons also delighted the audience with two more new songs that will be part of the same album, ‘Little White Lies’ and ‘Joke’s On You’.
During the whole performance, Toby Jepson made every effort to make eye contact and interact with everyone in the room, making the whole experience feel more personal. Lastly, they played what had become their signature tune, ‘Until The End’ with the crowd clapping and singing along the whole time.
The crowd was already warmed up after the two support bands and ready for the amazing Living Colour to finally come on stage. Front man Corey Glover showed up wearing a suave and sophisticated black and white blazer, shirt and tie, combined with round sunglasses and a bowler hat. Just in case someone would be too shy to sing along (I don’t think that would be the case anyway), they requested participation from everyone straight away. Going back in time, the four-piece first stopped at their most recent album, ‘Shade’, starting their set with ‘Freedom of Expression (F.O.X.)’ and ‘Come On’. Glover proved his spectacular vocals right from the beginning, hitting impressive notes with a contagious energy.
‘Vivid’ took off with the ground-breaking, 1990’s Grammy winning ‘Cult of Personality’, a song with a message that still stands, probably now more than ever, as mass media and propaganda became part of our everyday lives. The eclectic set list continued with songs like ‘I want to know’, ‘Middle Man’ and ‘Open Letter (To a Landlord)’. The four-piece also treated the audience with an original version of Talking Heads’ ‘Memories Can’t Wait’, with guitar solos that went crazy. They continued with another catchy masterpiece, ‘Glamour Boys’, which “discusses young men obsessed with aspects of high society such as clothing and parties”. The crowd shouted the chorus back to the stage as loud as they could: “I ain’t no glamour boy – I’m fierce!”. Next was their theme song, ‘What’s Your Favourite Colour?’ and, as you can guess, everyone’s favourite colour was Living Colour.
During the whole performance Corey Glover shocked with outstanding ease to touch really high notes, as the band was going through different sounds and genres like funk, soul and metal. Guitarist Vernon Reid impressed everyone with his exhilarating riffs and solos while bassist Doug Wimbish kept the rhythm with his jazzy bass lines and drummer Will Calhoun presented some cool beats and exciting looping.
Before they left, they asked if they could take a picture with everyone, making all the hands in the room go up. Many cheers were shouted from every corner of the venue as the band had left the stage but the crowd wasn’t going to let them go away that easily.
A few minutes passed by and the Living Colour came back for the encore with the uplifting ‘Solace of You’. It is not part of ‘Vivid’ but it was also released 30 years ago, on the album ‘Pride’. I could see many people still wanted more but they knew that’s the end — at least for now. As I was leaving the venue I could hear lyrics from the last song coming from everywhere, as everyone had the song stuck in their minds but of course no one minded.
Jared James Nichols and Wayward Sons playing in the same evening were a combination made in heaven, and together with Living Colour, they created a priceless and unforgettable evening.
Review and Photos: Andra Tudoran