Show Review: Living Colour and Fishbone at The Regency Center, 9/25/09

by Gordon Elgart on September 28, 2009

Corey Glover is dressed like a serial killer because he murdered it.

Corey Glover is dressed like a serial killer because he murdered it.

Seeing Living Colour and Fishbone on the same bill is my 1991 fever dream.  Put Primus on there, too, and I may have passed out from excitement.  As it is, I was pretty darned excited to be seeing these bands together.  While I’d seen Living Colour a couple of times recently, I hadn’t checked in on Fishbone for more than a dozen years.  I was ready for a loud funky night in the city.

The show was scheduled to start at 9:00 with Fishbone playing for an hour, a half-hour break, and then 90 minutes of Living Colour.  How it actually went was slightly different, and both bands ended up with setlist “issues.”

Fishbone seemed to have some trouble getting all set-up, and they finally started around 9:15 or so.   They opened up with a few later tracks, the ones that are more of a funk reggae feel, as opposed to the earlier more rock-oriented stuff.  That the pot smokers were asked to move to the back of the room was a sign that the set was going to kick into gear, and with “Bonin’ in the Boneyard,” it finally did.  The louder, more rock oriented songs started dominating the set, but then at 10:00 it was over.  What, no “Party at Ground Zero?”  Where was “Sunless Saturday?”  My colleague Dakin collected the actual setlist from the band (and joyfully had it autographed by the great Angelo Moore), and those songs were on there. Here’s what the actually played:

Poem Skank
Forever More
The Suffering
Behind Closed Doors
Bone ‘n in the Boneyard
Deep Inside
Date Rape
Ma & Pa
Cholly
Alcoholic
Fascism

It turns out that the person who wrote the setlist thought that they had 90 minutes, so they got through what they could get through in 50 minutes.  It was good, but it definitely left a lot of people wanting more.  And they easily could have gotten more because Living Colour was all set up and ready to go by 10:30, and then we waited.  And waited.  Finally, at 11:00 they came on stage.

The wait was totally worth it for me because they sounded awesome.  When they played at Bimbo’s a few years ago, I stayed behind to talk to Corey Glover and told him that they sounded better then they did back in 1991, and he was so pleased to hear that.  And in 2009, they sound even better!  Corey especially sounds incredible, and he takes every old song in absolutely new directions.  “Open Letter (to a Landlord)” was particularly excellent with a preacher-like intensity to the introduction, and when it kicked in, the crowd taking over some of the singing.

The crowd in general was pretty tame, but there was this intense pocket near the front that was jumping, singing, and doing a little moshing.  When the crowd really got into a frenzy was when bassist Doug Wimbish jumped down off the stage to play right in the middle of everyone.

Doug

The whole show–both bands–had a joyful intensity about it.  I think everyone on stage was trying to make sure everyone in the place knew that they were having a great time.  Living Colour especially was sharing lots of smiles with each other.  Back in the day, they were on a major label and probably always trying to prove something.  Now, free of that pressure, they come across a band just happy to be there.

As for their setlist, I think they did a pretty poor job of constructing it.  They started out what seemed to be a greatest hits set of sorts, but then, late in the set, they said “we’re gonna play a few songs off of the new album.”  They then proceeded to play the first seven songs off the new album before going into a four song finishing kick.  It’s not the songs are bad; in fact, a few of them are great.  (Especially “Bless Those” which is a must listen.) It’s that the band stopped stretching out the songs in new directions because they were trying to show off the new material as opposed to just open up and let it fly.  Also, the “we’re gonna play a few new songs” thing is best done toward the beginning of the set.

Living Colour’s setlist:

Middle Man
Desperate People
Type
Go Away
Bi
Drum Solo
Open Letter (to a Landlord)
Papa Was a Rolling Stone [Temptations cover — unfinished]
Glamour Boys
Burned Bridges
The Chair
DecaDance
Young Man
Method
Behind the Sun
Bless Those (Little Annie’s Prayer)
Time’s Up
Cult of Personality
—Encore—
Crosstown Traffic [Jimi Hendrix Cover]
Love Rears Its Ugly Head

Other than the hiccup in the energy from the new songs being bunched together toward the end of the set, this was a terrific performance that ended up clocking in at close to two hours as Living Colour pushed toward the 1AM curfew. The four musicians in the band are amazing. Will Calhoun (a huge influence on my own drumming) played a 15-minute drum solo that didn’t overstay its welcome. Since I find most 3-minute drum solos are too long, this is high praise. And I can’t finish this without mentioning how ridiculously awesome Vernon Reid is. He ain’t no glamour boy; he’s fierce.

I’m glad that Living Colour takes time out of their lives to come visit San Francisco every once in a while, and you can be sure I’ll be back to see them every time. It’s a bit of a nostalgia kick for me, I’ll admit, but as long as the band keeps taking their songs in new directions and playing them with enthusiasm, it’ll stay feeling new and exciting.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben September 28, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Sorry I missed it! I'd be amazed if they were to come down to N.C.

Reply

Gordon Elgart September 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm

They did Florida and Georgia. That's the closest they got to you. Sorry they skipped you!

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