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Living Colour + Stone Broken

Sunday 1st October 2017

ULU, London

Wow - what an awesome headliner, superb support, excellent venue and cheap booze! All these factors added up to one of the best gigs we have attended this year as legendary, Grammy Award-winning Rock band Living Colour, ably supported by Black Country Hard Rockers Stone Broken, blew the proverbial bloody doors off of London's ULU, as part of their European Tour, last Sunday night. The bonus ball of the evening was Stone Broken - given this was the third time we had caught them this year. Already strong contender's for 'Best Support' or 'One's To Watch' in our 2017 WRC Awards - we originally saw them supporting Glenn Hughes at The Islington Assembly Hall in January and then from afar on the Sunday on the Ramblin' Man Fair Planet Rock Stage - which was very apt given they were voted as runners-up in the ‘Best New Band’ category of the annual Planet Rock Awards 2016. There was also an element of irony about the fact that Stone Broken were supporting Living Colour given Glenn Hughes' first tour was acrimoniously cancelled because original support band Living Colour in the end ended up supporting Alter Bridge!

And suffice to say our original assessment of the West Midlanders was unchanged as vocalist/guitarist and baseball capped Rich Moss greeted the sell-out crowd with a "How Are You Doing?". With Chris Davis on guitar/vocals, Kieron Conroy on bass and Robyn Haycock on drums/vocals - their short set was taken from their first album 'All In Time'. Described as a big chunky Rock sound with huge choruses, that certainly came across in their opening number, and their very first single, 'Stay All Night' - think Monster Truck meets Blacktop Mojo - with some great guitar work from the ever-smiling Davis and exceptional vocals from Moss - again belying his Walsall accent with a Southern Rock drawl. It literally got 'Better' - another track from 'AIT' - consolidating their huge arena Rock sound before Moss enquired "Are there any Stone Broken virgins out there?" to which the reply was very much in the minority from where we were standing. The slower intro to 'Be There' led into an inevitable huge riff - the impressive vocals of Moss and guitar work from Davis very reminiscent of Nickelback when they rock. And if you wanted proof of their growing following, Moss then dedicated the next song 'Wait For You' to Bridget and Darren who had travelled down from Nottingham! "Are you guys ready?" Moss teased as the formula remained the same with its heavy riff and few fist-punching "hey's" thrown in for good measure. "Who got the first album?'' enquired Moss - which was a cue for two new tracks from the hotly awaited second album namely 'Doesn't Matter' and 'Just A Memory' - the former one of the highlights of the set with its Grunge feel - plus a drum solo from the dynamic Haycock - leaving you in no doubt that they will not suffer second album syndrome! They rounded off their set with the heavier 'This Life', followed by the closing headbanger and second single off of 'AIT' 'Not Your Enemy'. Stone Broken continue to support Living Colour on this tour, however, the guys deservedly make the step up as they headline PlanetRockStock in November plus Winters End Festival in 2018. Do not miss them.

Living Colour is an American Rock band from New York City formed in 1984. Stylistically, the band's music is a creative fusion influenced by Heavy Metal, Funk, Jazz, Hip Hop, Country and Alternative Rock. Their lyrics range from the personal to the political, in some of the latter cases attacking Eurocentrism and racism in America. Living Colour rose to fame with their debut album Vivid in 1988 - although the band scored a number of hits, they are best remembered for their signature anthem 'Cult Of Personality' which won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock performance in 1990. They were also named Best New Artist at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards and won their second Grammy Award for their follow-up album 'Time's Up'. After disbanding in 1995, Living Colour reunited in late 2000. They recently released their new studio album 'Shade' on Megaforce Records and it's their first new studio album in eight years. Produced by Andre Betts, it captures the legendary, Grammy Award-winning Rock band at the height of their creative powers, still experimenting as though they were upstarts instead of seasoned veterans.

It was a case of Living Colour by name - Living Colour by nature, as the guys made their way on to the ULU stage, a mix of caps, hats, bandanas and dreadlocks - with a matching killer suit in the case of vocalist Corey Glover and a Union Jack t-shirt in the case of bass guitarist Doug Wimbish. Right from the outset the band let their music do the talking as they opened with a storming cover of Robert Johnson's 'Preaching' Blues' - their powerful delivery as a unit, including guitarist Vernon Reid and drummer Will Calhoun, every bit as colourful as their attire. "Glad you missed us - we're back!" enthused Corey Glover after their rapturous reception - as the band came back up for air with 'Wall' from their 1993 album 'Stain' with not only the ULU faithful immediately becoming vocal, but in particular Wimbish, not only setting out his stall for the night with bass intro, backing vocals and getting the max out of his bass dials on the outro, but also for his cool, explosive, psychedelic jousting with Reid, which made one question the sound system balance! Introducing 'Middle Man' from the aforementioned 'Vivid', Reid let us in on the secret that he was actually born in Paddington, before he launched into a Hard Rock guitar solo that appropriately riffed like a train and was on the right track, complemented by the driving bass of Wimbish and the unparalleled vocals of the bespectacled Glover. Man would I not only love a voice like Corey but also his teeth as well! And as for banter - there was a lot of that as well, with the earring wearing Reid being told off for riffing the Beatles' 'Day Tripper' during the introduction of 'Desperate People', again from Vivid' - cue another riff ridden guitar solo retort from Vernon.

Hand clapping and the proverbial "123" lead us into 'Stain's 'Ignorance Is Bliss' a real jam laden rocker featuring Reid's distorted guitar before a technical malfunction - so funny at the time - which saw a backing track being played at the wrong time on the intro to 'Vivid's an 'Open Letter (To A Landlord)' - Brooklyn resident Reid repeatedly emphasising that the song was a protest against the inflated property market. More light-hearted un-PC banter ensued as Glover questioned Vernon as to whether he had tourette's or that he was just having a senior moment before Corey duly launched into a powerful opening four minute vocal that saw him throw his mic stand to the floor leaving the rest of the band looking concerned! "Come On Reverend' came a cry from the crowd and sure enough Glover's congregation joined in the singing, complemented once again by another Reid guitar solo plus more of Wimbish's explosive bass - which concluded with Corey taking not only his jacket off but also his hat - exposing his pink hair! Living Colour then took time out to thank Stone Broken (who were standing in the wings) before they showcased three tracks from their new album 'Shade'. The irony was not lost on the Notorious B.I.G. cover 'Who Shot Ya' (this was the gun violence backing track mistakenly played earlier) given the carnage later that night in Las Vegas. Despite the surprising lack of many Black fans in the audience, if any track nailed the diversity of Living Colour's genre then this was it. Rap, another driving guitar solo and even a "Put your hands up" saw this East Coast Hip Hop, thanks to an awesome Calhoun drum solo, morph into 'Who's That' with another great Glover vocal, Reid guitar solo and Wimbish bass outro. Some more great banter plus a misleading laid-back intro led us into their final take on 'Shade' namely, namely 'Come On', one of the highlights of the set, not to be confused with the The Hives song of the same name, but it still had that same in yer face attitude from Glover with Reid's atonal shredding and Wimbish's sweet booming bass.

The Blues Rock of 'This Is The Life' from 'Time's Up' was dedicated by the band to one Mary Jackson, a song especially requested by Mary, who'd travelled from Houston, Texas and followed the whole tour. As Glover put it "She feeds us so we like her" and the guys certainly did Mary proud with its Beatle-ish psychedelic mystical opening with Reid visiting every sinew on his lived in, expressive face during this jamming jazz-fusion barnstormer. The Funky 'Love Rears Its Ugly Head' also from Time's Up was sandwiched in between both a Doug Wimbish bass and Will Calhoun drum solo. 'LRIUH' with its quirky time signature was Soul Funk perfection with an unbelievable groove which saw Glover conducting a sing-along resting on a balcony to the left of the stage. Priceless. As for Wimbish - the man has got to be bass/lead guitarist hybrid - don't think I've ever heard a bass guitarist produce the chords he managed tonight. Amazing. And as for Calhoun, Glover introduced it as "Not a drum solo", indeed Will ended up doing part of his "drum solo" without his drum kit with percussion at the front of the stage, duly coordinating the spontaneous hand clapping. Brilliant! Anyway, the good news was that the band managed to use the right intro backing track for the driving Rock of their anthem 'Cult Of Personality' from 'Vivid' and not only did Corey (doing a Run-D.M.C.) come to our side of the stage and shake one of our outstretched hands, but he finished off by going walk about during the performance with cries of "Jump. Jump, Jump" - which everyone obliged - Glover eventually ending up singing along with everyone at the back of the audience! And that was that - a truly memorable evening - Living Colour play Liverpool tonight and Newcastle on Saturday before embarking on a US tour. Don't leave it another four and half years guys before you come back to London! Ramblin' Man Fair 2018 anyone?


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