To be fair, my expectations for LIVING COLOUR run very high. This band was HUGE for me and a number of my mates around the releases of Vivid and Time’s Up. Huge as in: I hadn’t listened to the debut album for ten years or so, and when it was announced that they’d play Copenhell, I gave it a listen…I knew practically all the lyrics by heart. Yeah, we were close, Vivid and I.
I saw LIVING COLOUR once at the Roskilde Festival. It was big. They were big. This was in 1993. They were stars. It was a party.
The stardom has faded slightly in 2019. The massive stage setup with the extra stage arm that has been added to the Helviti stage isn’t there because of LIVING COLOUR. It’s for SCORPIONS later tonight. The show of hands in front of Helviti in the middle of the afternoon isn’t overly impressive, but my expectations are no less high!
The sound of the Robert Johnsen tune “Preachin’ Blues” from Shade billows over Copenhell. It’s not a song I know too well, so I’m slightly concerned that the reports I’ve seen of LIVING COLOUR playing the entire debut album aren’t holding up. But, lo and behold, Corey Glover then announces that they’ll play Vivid. Glover, by the way, looks more like a grandad than a rock star these days. He probably is.
“Cult of Personality” takes off. Great! Except…Calhuon seems to be missing parts here and there. And Glover’s is still there, but, man it’s not quite what it used to be. Anyhoo, this is just the warm up!
Or perhaps it isn’t. Things go completely wrong between the otherwise brilliant guitarist Vernon Reid and drummer Will Calhoun in the intro part of “Middle Man”. They have to stop. “This is awkward,” Glover comments. “We’ve only played this forever.” They try again, and this time LIVING COLOUR get past the intro, although shakily.
With a beginning of a show like that, it’s hard to pick up the thread, and it never really happens, sadly. In “Open Letter (To a Landlord)”, an otherwise beautiful and emotional song, Calhoun kind of misses the beat again. This has to be an off day for the otherwise world-class drummer. Glover is only momentarily able to muster the grand voice he used to spoil the listerners with.
“Funny Vibe” turns into a bit of a jam session (something which I totally deplore, by the way) and the also (usually) beautiful Talking Heads cover “Memories Can’t Wait” is unrecognisable and heading in no direction whatsoever.
For all the talent and experience nested in these four men, for all the great songs they’ve written, this seems if anything like a rehearsal on a stage that is much too big for them. Am I disappointed? Yup, you bet. All in all a bizar experience.
1. Preachin' Blues
2. Cult of Personality
3. Middle Man
4. Desperate People
5. Funny Vibe
6. Memories Can't Wait
7. Which Way to America?
8. Open Letter (To a Landlord)
9. Time's Up
10. Should I Stay or Should I Go
Vernon Reid - guitar
Corey Glover - vocals
Will Calhoun - drums
Doug Wimbish - bass