NEW YORK It was billed as a gig by Headfake, but a Thursday night show soon turned into a full-fledged Living Colour reunion as the hard-rock band that broke down the genre's color barrier played together at CBGB's, the club where they were discovered more than a decade ago.
Tipped off by the promise of a "special guest," fans packed the legendary downtown club to capacity. After Headfake a group featuring singer Corey Glover, bassist Doug Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun finished up two charged drum- and bass-infused songs, Glover faced the crowd and grinned.
Laughing a bit, he asked, "So what brings you out here on this cold-ass day?," and then, as if to answer his own question, turned and yelled offstage, "Hey! Come here, man." Living Colour guitarist and co-founder Vernon Reid then joined his former bandmates on the small stage.
Energized and none the worse for the time off since their 1995 breakup, Living Colour hit the ground running with a thundering version of "Middle Man" and never slowed down during a seamless and intense 12-song set. Playing for almost an hour, Living Colour touched upon favorites from their three-CD catalog. Highlights included a fist-pumping rendition of the band's breakthrough single, "Cult of Personality", from 1988's Grammy winner Vivid; "Love Rears Its Ugly Head," which Glover gave a delicious dramatic flair; "Time's Up", "Bi," Talking Heads' "Memories Can't Wait" (also from Vivid) and "Everything Goes Round."
The band encored with a breakneck version of Jimi Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic," which the foursome tore into with the fervor of newcomers.
That drive and a sense of fun were, according to Reid, part of the motivation to play again. The group, which has maintained varying degrees of contact musically and personally over the years, always had the notion of reuniting in the back of their minds, Reid said before the show. It wasn't until Calhoun asked Reid several months ago to seriously consider the idea of a Living Colour gig that the notion became a reality, because, Reid admitted, "for a change I was open to it."
The group held a few low-key rehearsals in the late fall and quickly discovered that the very things that had torn the band apart didn't matter. "It felt like friends having a good time," Reid said. "We were having fun playing."
Asked why now, Reid laughed and said, "I've given up being right," adding, "for me, [getting back together] has to do with personal things rather than some reunion fever. I broke up the band, and it was very emotional, 'cause we were really close personally."
As the response at the show proved there's an audience eager for Living Colour's ballistic and intricate blur of funk, rock and soul, but according to Reid the likelihood of more shows and the future of Living Colour "is really one day at a time."
Reid, Calhoun and founding bassist Muzz Skillings formed the pioneering black rock group in 1983 in New York. The lineup solidified with the addition of Taylor in 1985, and in 1987, the group was discovered at CBGB's by Mick Jagger, who financed and produced songs for the band's demo.
Wimbish joined the band after Skillings' 1992 departure.