Living Colour: Open Letter to Santiago

Before the first note was played, sung or strummed, lead singer Cory Glover walked on stage and greeted the crowd at Living Colour’s November 6 show, at Teatro Teletón. The rest of the band followed one by one, welcoming the audience. The connection with the crowd was made.

Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete
Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete

“I don’t have to be the best. I don’t want to be just like the rest.” The humble lyrics from ‘Middleman’, a song from their 1988 album Vivid started the show, a performance which had no need for humility from this Grammy-winning group.

Now, when a band is described as one “known for its hits in the ‘90s,” my expectations drop a little, as many formerly-famous bands rest on their laurels and get stuck in the musical style of their era of fame. However, the talent, range and versatility of the musicians in Living Colour have given their laurels no time to rest.

Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete
Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete

Founded by guitarist, Vern Reid, the group’s work spans from thrashy funk to punk to hard rock and even dabbles in acid jazz. The group spawned from founder Reid’s (among others) Black Rock Coalition, a group organized in the ‘80s to support and encourage black musicians interested in playing rock music. Although Living Colour has had lengthy hiatuses and an evolution of members, this is their third tour to Chile and the current line-up includes Glover, Reid, Doug Wimish on bass and Will Calhoun on drums.

Three songs into the show, the crowd learned that it was Glover’s birthday and began singing Happy Birthday to him in English. The band responded with unintentional irony with their fast, thrashy song, ‘Go Away’. Glover may have gotten rid of his long signature braids, but he has lost no range or strength in what seemed to be a five (or more) octave vocal range.

From their newest CD, Chair in the Doorway, the song ‘Burned Bridges’ echoed of The Church rifts gone angry in a thrash with lightening-speed guitar solos. The range of song styles in the remainder of the song included funk grunge, heavy metal and an electronica funk dance mix that should surface at every disco tech in Europe and rave the U.S., many songs featuring incredible guitar and bass solos from Reid and Wimish.

The show-stopper was Glover’s two-minute gospel intro to ‘Open Letter (to a landlord)’, which speaks of the destruction of old buildings to build new ones, destroying communities and neighborhoods, a theme which resonates in today’s growth-crazed economy of Santiago. His voice silenced the crowd and they stood in reverence until the song popped into a hard rock rhythm.

Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete
Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete

After a playful version of ‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Bi’, Calhoun slipped into a fifteen-minute techno house drum solo that included electronic synthesizing, a lit-orb theremin, (an electrical instrument that is played by proximity, without touching it) and lighted drum sticks that flashed neon psychedelic colors from the ends as he maniacally played.

There was the Motown hit ‘Papa was a Rollin’ Stone’, and, when they said they had to go, the band turned soccer chant “ooo-ooowooo-ooo” into a jam.

There were more, many more, songs, more amazing guitar solos, the crowd singing the song ‘Elvis is dead’ in Spanish, and a birthday cake for Glover. Lalo Ibeas of Chancho en Piedra, sang one song in lieu of originally scheduled Synergia, but the crowds wouldn’t let them leave.

Although it wasn’t the last song they sang, the words from their song ‘Behind the Sun’, off the latest CD summed it up: “We’re still here and you’re still there”. And on Friday, yes they were.

For more info go to: Living Colour

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