They might have been a year late but, it’s such a rare opportunity to see Living Colour in the UK that this show had to be attended. Even better was that they came to Liverpool this time! A year ago they pulled out of a scheduled tour with Glenn Hughes, and although the former Purple man did rearrange his dates for early 2017 it was without the US rockers alongside. Also left stranded somewhat were Midlands rockers Stone Broken, who were scheduled to open on that tour. However, they did support Glenn Hughes on his rearranged tour and for this run, Living Colour made good on their earlier cancellation by booking the Walsall foursome as openers.
Also a year has passed since this venue, located in the Baltic Triangle district in the south end of Liverpool, first opened its doors. The area has become something of a creative hub in recent years, and in its first 12 months of operation the venue has already become a fixture on the live scene in this city. With a capacity of around 750, all standing floor but with a small balcony towards the rear, it is a venue fit enough to draw many more bands to this end of the M62. It will hopefully mean rock fans in this area won’t always have to make the journey to Manchester, as remains the case for far too many tours still.
The place from the outside looks like a nondescript factory unit, but once inside you see a nice, spacious hall with a decently-sized stage and good sight lines from pretty much wherever you are. It is located a little further away from the centre of town which is its only drawback.
On the ticket it stated the doors were to open at 7pm; not so, I got there just at that time to find there was a queue running right along the street still. They didn’t open up until at least 7:30, and after entering and finding a nice spot towards house left, Stone Broken came on while the hall was still filling up. I was directly in line with drummer Robyn Haycock’s kit, set up towards my side of the stage. The guys and girl gave us a run-through of numbers from their promising debut album ‘All In Time’, alongside a new one (‘Doesn’t Matter’) which according to frontman Rich Moss will feature on their new album scheduled for early 2018. They have a strong sound built on heavy downtuned guitar riffs, allied to the hit-em-and-stay-hit drum style from the permanently headbanging, permanently smiling, Robyn Haycock. She had a mishap midway through this set when two cymbal stands fell over mid-song (taking out her ride, crash and one splash cymbal), which at first went unnoticed by her bandmates. She actually managed to recover the stand holding her ride cymbal before the end of the song without losing the beat, but was subjected to some ribbing from the lads when they finally noticed her picking up half her kit when they ended that number! Stone Broken are definitely ones to watch, they are still not the finished article; apart from the slower ‘Wait For You’ it was all in a similar style. But for a band with one album under their belts, there’s plenty of time to develop their repertoire.
It’s been over ten years since last I saw Living Colour, when they played Birkenhead at the now-defunct Pacific Road Arts Centre, so I was eager to see what they brought to the table this time. Frontman Corey Glover and guitarist Vernon Reid were both sporting flat caps, the former’s tweed headgear and specs made me think he was trying out for The Lancashire Hotpots (!) All thoughts of chippy tea-inspired comedy folk were blown out of the water once they struck up though. These fellas are all virtuosos on their respective instruments, it’s sometimes hard to know where to focus the attention as both Reid and bassist Doug Wimbish throw out lick after lick, while drummer Will Calhoun thunders out some complicated fills of his own, all while holding everything together. Starting off with ‘Preachin’ Blues’, a cover of Robert Johnson which appears on LC’s latest album ‘Shade’ they followed up with ‘Wall’ from 1993’s ‘Stain’ album. This one really did make the viewer look all over the stage, there was so much going on even as the song reached its conclusion. The ‘big rock ending’ had the entire band noodling away, all this time Glover kept the vocal refrain ‘The Wall Between Us All Must Fall’ going throughout, until only his voice was left standing. The effect was more impactful than I can describe here!
The band are here to promote most recent album ‘Shade’, but the set featured several tracks from debut ‘Vivid’ including fan favourites ‘Cult of Personality’ and ‘Middle Man’. Their incendiary delivery of ‘Elvis Is Dead’ (from ‘Time’s Up’) was followed up by an equally fiery blast of ‘Hound Dog’ complete with hip-shaking from the singer! His vocal was sometimes obliterated by the heavyweight playing all around him (or perhaps it was the sound balance from my spot!) but when he could be heard, he was in fantastic voice. He’s lost nothing in almost thirty years, there are few other singers I could say the same about.
Although much of their material tackles some serious, political matter, they still have fun on the stage. Corey even took up a seat to the side of the stage, literally inches away from me to watch the other guys play at one point! There was a solo spot featuring Doug Wimbish, where he got to use his huge array of effects including an octave pedal, which allows him to emulate a guitar and play a lead solo of his own. Will Calhoun got a solo spot too, which enabled me to see him for the first time all night (he was obscured by his ride cymbal from my spot) as he emerged from the kit, having looped a beat so that he could play on a hand-held electronic frame drum.
This band play hard rock with the emphasis on hard – there is an intensity, a passion, about their playing which is lacking in many so-called ‘metal’ bands around today. As such, whenever they come around it’s always a privilege to see them and I very much hope it isn’t another decade before they return!