English-born Vernon Reid had played guitar in New York in Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society before launching a series of bands he called Living Colour in 1984. Melding heavy metal, funk, jazz, hip hop and alternative rock, Reid and his bands found a home at CBGB's. The lineup stabilized by 1986, and turning to a more commercial bent, Living Colour hit with "Cult of Personality" on its debut album in 1988, winding up on MTV video rotations, opening for the Rolling Stones tour, and winning two Grammy Awards. Living Colour disbanded in 1995 and reformed in 2000. The band presently consists of Reid, vocalist Corey Glover, bassist Doug Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun. Living Colour's fifth and most recent studio album is 2009's The Chair in the Doorway; the band hopes to release Shade in 2017.
Headlining at City Winery tonight, Living Colour showed its CBGB's roots with a cover of Talking Heads' "Memories Can't Wait." From the first song, the band stamped out its abilities: Glover was a fine singer, and the musicians were talented and ingenuous. Glover sings with a husky, commanding presence, Reid's guitar licks are fierce and daring, and the rhythm section was as creative as a progressive fusion band. Playing commercial music for common denominator tastes would have been too easy; instead, Living Colour rocked on instrumental jazz/funk workouts, riveting hard rockers, casual pop riffs and even Delta blues and hip hop. The few cover tunes ranged from the Beatles' psychedelic "Tomorrow Never Knows" to the Notorious B.I.G's "Who Shot Ya?" The consistent factor throughout was that all the jams rocked.
Living Colour will be performing at the AfroPunk Festival on August 28. Meanwhile, visit the band at www.livingcolour.com.