Tag Archives: Music Nostalgia

Extreme Reemerge At The Top Of Their Game at The Van Buren (2-23-24)

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Phoenix, AZ — Living Colour could be described as a funk band infused with hard rock, and Extreme, a hard rock band infused with funk. The fusion of these two bands playing the intimate Van Buren venue was magical. The first couple of songs from each band solidified the notion that they were bands that comprised elite musicians with chemistry and executed every musical nuance with collaborative precision. This leg of the “Thicker Than Blood” world tour started with U.S. dates in January, and they’ve had night-after-night to perfect their performance before their arrival in Phoenix.

Both groups emerged on the scene in that bygone era known as the 80s, and their timing couldn’t be better for their resurgence among music lovers craving this nostalgia. It wasn’t just the classic songs that sparked interest in this show. Extreme is touring in support of their new album, SIX, released last June, which has been met with an unexpectedly warm reception. Even the band has been surprised at the response that has shot the album into the top ten in some countries (peaked at 67 in the U.S. so far), and given their music videos millions of views on YouTube.

Extreme's SIX black LP
SIX double vinyl

The music industry may have turned its back on guitar heroes, but the people have spoken. This was a sold out show. They came out en masse to see two of the finest guitarists on earth (and beyond): Vernon Reid of Living Colour, who sets the pace, and the great Nuno Bettencourt, who exceeds all speed limits.

Living Colour

Corey Glover (Vocalist), Living Colour
Corey Glover (Vocalist), Living Colour
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Guitarist Vernon Reid was the first to grace the stage as he strolled out like a long-lost friend, greeting everyone with a smile and a wave, and wearing a Salvador Dali T-shirt and a scally cap hat. Next, singer Corey Glover sauntered onto the stage dressed to the nines, with colorful dreads for days. Next was bassist Doug Wimbish (also known for his Sugar Hill recordings), wearing his signature hat and primed to slap his signature Spector Euro 5-string bass. Noticeably absent was drummer Will Calhoun, but filling in for him was James ‘Biscuit’ Rouse, whose résumé includes stints with Usher, Pharrell, Chic, Stevie Wonder, and more. According to the Living Colour website, Calhoun had some previous commitments for a handful of dates, and this was one of them.

Corey Glover singing at The Van Buren
Corey Glover (Vocalist), Living Colour
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

They opened their set with “Middle Man” from their 1988 debut Vivid, and “Leave It Alone” from their 1993 release Stain. Opening thoughts were that Glover’s voice was in top form and so very soulful, and that Reid can get a multitude of sounds from a pedal board that looks like the showroom of a music store. He then takes those sounds and turns them into sonic freight trains of blistering solos and iconic style.

Vernon Reid (Guitarist), Living Colour
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

A couple of cover songs landed in the set: The first was “Kick Out The Jams” by MC5, and it improved on the original. Glover’s voice gives more melody to the verses, but keeps the growl as needed for the payoff lines. Then, they performed a medley of hip hop songs from the Wimbish-led Sugar Hill label, including Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It)”, Sugar Hill Gang’s “Jump On It”, and Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message.”

Doug Wimbish (Bassist), Living Colour
Doug Wimbish (Bassist), Living Colour
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Living Colour wrapped their set up with the Grammy Award-winning “Cult Of Personality,” their breakout hit from 1988 with the music video that introduced them to crossover audiences. It was fantastic to see them back on the stage, doing this song and the handful of other songs that defined their unique brand of fusion rock/funk. They’ve still got it.

Extreme

Gary Cherone (Vocalist), Extreme
Gary Cherone (Vocalist), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

This band hits the stage with all cylinders firing. Extreme’s high-energy music is amplified by the incomparable showmanship of frontman Gary Cherone, who left no area of the stage untouched. He even climbed the amplifier stacks for higher vantage points, commanding attention with exceptional charisma. His voice seems to have not aged and continues to possess the range for soft, low ballads to the primal screams that teeter on the verge of breaking.

As they opened with “It (‘s A Monster)” and “Decadence Dance” from their double platinum album Pornograffitti, Cherone was dressed in a black snake-skin-pattern sports coat, donning sunglasses with an ‘X’ over the right lens, and sporting his signature headband. His bold look and remarkable stage presence evoked elements of the great Motown performers, and he even mixed in a couple of lines from Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” somewhere in the night.

Gary Cherone (Vocalist), Extreme singing at The Van Buren
Gary Cherone (Vocalist), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Fans were anxious to see if guitarist Nuno Bettencourt could pull off the scorching guitar riffs that he had perfected in the studio, and they were not disappointed. He had set the bar pretty high, yet made it look effortless as his left hand (the one with the black fingernail polish) blurred across the high frets of his Washburn N4 guitar. When “Rise” was released (the first single from SIX), the news spread like wildfire that ‘you have to check out Nuno’s new guitar solo!’ …Did he nail it live? It is a resounding yes, but we had to wait until the encore to hear it. It was worth the wait.

Rick Beato (Everything Music Channel) interviewed Bettencourt on his podcast about the massive response and it’s a great interview.

Nuno Bettencourt (Guitarist), Extreme
Nuno Bettencourt (Guitarist), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Extreme was not resting on their laurels and playing all catalog hits. “#Rebel” was the first of six new songs to be sprinkled into the setlist. Cherone led the audience to sing-along with the angsty lyric “Hey, you got something to say? You talking to me as you’re walking away?” 

Pat Badger (Bassist), Extreme
Pat Badger (Bassist), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Bassist Pat Badger and drummer Kevin Figueiredo may not have been the focal points of the limelight, but their contributions to the Extreme sound and their stellar musicianship did not go unnoticed. Plus, they both multitask with singing vocals while performing their instrumental duties and helping to build the wall of harmonies that elevate each chorus.

Kevin Figueiredo (Drummer), Extreme
Kevin Figueiredo (Drummer), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The four-part harmonies were spotlighted on the intro to the second song released from the new album, “Banshee,” when they covered Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” So cool. It’s clear that Queen had some influence on their individual musical journeys. They also included a bit of “We Will Rock You” during their performance of “Play With Me” that goes way back to their debut album. Check out their 20-minute Queen medley from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness on April 20, 1992.

Gary Cherone (Vocalist) and Pat Badger (Bassist) of Extreme
Gary Cherone (Vocalist) & Pat Badger (Bassist), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Another musical reference that percolated throughout the evening was the mighty Van Halen. To some, Gary Cherone is just a footnote to the historic singers of Van Halen that comprised Diamond Dave and Red Rocker Sammy Hagar. However, his one ill-fated album with the band did go gold, and he had the opportunity to work with the incredible Edward Van Halen. Bettencourt paid homage to Van Halen with a rendition of “Eruption” before transitioning into “Am I Ever Gonna Change.” Later, during the encore, he played the intro to “Woman In Love” and reverently pointed to the heavens, put his fist to his heart, and said, “Happy Birthday, King Edward!

Gary Cherone (Vocalist), Extreme performing at The Van Buren
Gary Cherone (Vocalist), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

There were two acoustic moments during the performance. The first included the whole band doing renditions of the new “Other Side Of The Rainbow” and the classic “Hole Hearted.” Bettencourt put on his $7,000 cowboy hat and told the story about buying it in Nashville. Later in the evening, Bettencourt and Cherone did an even more stripped down acoustic montage that showcased their diverse songwriting skills.

As he took a seat with his acoustic guitar, Bettencourt gave a heartfelt thank you to Living Colour and praised the musicianship of guitarist Vernon Reid. He joked that when he realized that Reid would be going on before Extreme, he called Reid before the tour and asked him to ‘pull it back a little bit.’ He also spoke to all of the aspiring guitarists in the room with this motivational speech:

“Man, I just need to tell you one thing. Whether you’re doing this up here or in a fucking arena or a stadium or a club or whatever it is, that shit don’t mean anything. What matters is that you are playing this guitar. Whether it’s in your basement, whether it’s in a garage, whether it’s online, whether you’re a fucking great cover band… don’t worry about that shit if you’re doing it for the love of it. The success is playing this instrument right here! …This is like a super power, man. Nobody can fuck with you when you have this thing on, I’m telling you right now. And you can hit somebody hard with it if they do try to fuck with you. (smiles) Give it up for all the guitar players in the room keeping guitar alive, especially all you youngsters out there as well.” – Nuno Bettencourt

Then, he proceeded to give a master class on acoustic guitar prowess by playing the acoustic solo, “Midnight Express” from the Waiting For The Punchline album. Bettencourt then introduced the next song from the new album, called “Hurricane.” He discussed the universal experience of losing someone near and dear to us and mentioned that someone in the audience had lost their mother earlier that day. He dedicated the song to that audience member and anyone else trying to heal up from loss in their lives. The emotional lyrics culminate in the chorus, “My heart is in a hurricane, an eye of emptiness and pain, is this the storm before the calm?

Gary Cherone (Vocalist) & Nuno  Bettencourt (Guitarist) of Extreme
Gary Cherone (Vocalist) & Nuno Bettencourt (Guitarist), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The mood subtly switched from somber to celebration as the familiar chords of “More Than Words” filled the room. This is the number 1 song that everyone knows, and everyone is singing along with their cell phones raised. Through these two songs, Cherone and Bettencourt traded lead vocal segments, but the magic was in their signature harmonies. Definitely a highlight of the show.

The high-velocity slingshot back into high gear with “Banshee” and the country-hoe-down-on-steroids, “Take Us Alive” that melted into yet another throwback to the Elvis hit “That’s Alright,” another song perfectly suited for Cherone’s persona. Guitar solos throughout the night satisfied the legions of Nuno followers, but the pinnacle show stopper was his blazing shredding on “Flight Of The Wounded Bumblebee” that seems like a million notes in just a minute and a half. This kid is ah-mazing!

Nuno Bettencourt performing at The Van Buren
Nuno Bettencourt (Guitarist), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The night was seemingly coming to a close as they launched into their signature song from the 80s, “Get The Funk Out.” This was the one that first thrust them into the world stage and heavy rotation on MTV. It was fantastic and the harmonies were fun, with a few expletives added for good measure. The only thing missing was the horn section. As the song ended, the cheers went up and the lights went down as they left the stage. Many assumed that that was the end of the show since it was their obvious show closer… But the house lights did not come on. Some fans started to trickle out of the venue, but the die-hard fans just cheered louder till eventually the quartet returned to the stage.

It is almost unheard of for a band to do new material during their encore. It’s a ballsy move, but boy did it ever pay off. The encore started with the Eddie Van Halen tribute mentioned above, and then continued with “Small Town Beautiful” infused at the outro chorus with the anthemic “Song For Love” from the Pornograffitti album. Had people still carried lighters, the room would have been aglow with their flickering flames. Ultimately, the show closed with rocker “Rise,” featuring the extraordinary guitar solo and the fist-pumping “EXTREME” groove that is absolutely infectious. No one would disagree that this was the perfect choice of an anthem to end the deluge of great music.

Badger, Cherone, & Bettencourt of Extreme live at The Van Buren
Pat Badger (Bassist), Gary Cherone (Vocalist) & Nuno Bettencourt (Guitarist), Extreme
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Witnessing bands genuinely expressing their gratitude towards their fans at the end of the night is always heartwarming. Extreme spent several minutes thanking the crowd and tossing out picks, sticks, and setlists, before finally lying down on the stage to take a selfie with all of us fans. Well played, Extreme, well played.

EXTREME Setlist
| LIVING COLOUR setlist

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Extreme & Living Colour – The Van Buren 2-23-24

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Music Legends Shaggy, TLC, & En Vogue Epitomize Hot Summer Nights at TSR Amphitheatre (7-7-23)

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PHOENIX — Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre hosted the aptly-named “Hot Summer Nights Tour” last Friday, featuring Shaggy, TLC, En Vogue, and Sean Kingston. The tour’s July 7th stop in Phoenix was a 90s-infused R&B/reggae/hip-hop flashback enjoyed by a multi-generational and multicultural audience. The sexy and sometimes PG-13 rated gyrations on stage may have bumped that heat index up a notch or two, but the crowd was there for it, and the artists delivered. 

Sean Kingston

Sean Kingston - Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre
Sean Kingston
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Miami, Florida-born Sean Kingston took the stage and promised to “take everyone to Jamaica on a first class trip”. Born Kisean Paul Anderson in 1990, he was raised in Kingston, Jamaica and brought not only his professional name but also his reggae-rich upbringing into his career. Kingston was not yet born when the other artists in the lineup were household names, but with his DJ Nyce Hitz driving the music and sharing in the vocals, he primed fans with a brief 17-minute set. Included in the setlist were the 2007 Teen Choice award-winning song “Beautiful Girls”, and his 2010 Justin Bieber collaboration “Eenie Meenie”.  

En Vogue

En Vogue - Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre
En Vogue
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Oakland divas En Vogue opened the set with the classic ladies-empowerment anthem “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”, stunning fans with on-point harmonies and forceful solos. Founding members Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron, along with longtime member Rhonda Bennett, looked stunning in short-length tiered floral dresses showcasing long legs, sporting retro-inspired updos and bling. The former foursome, now a trio, thrilled the audience with sultry choreographed dance moves and a fierce presence.

Rhonda Bennett (Vocalist), En Vogue
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Next up was “You Don’t Have to Worry” from their debut album Born to Sing – a fittingly titled album as these ladies were undeniably born to sing. As if twenty million records sold worldwide is not proof enough, throw in three Soul Train Awards, seven Grammy nominations, and two American Music Awards, and it’s no surprise we are sharing their songs with future generations.

Cindy Herron (Vocalist), En Vogue
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Each En Vogue “funky diva” was given the spotlight on “Give It Up”, allowing them to showcase their individually stylized solos. Herron said, “Ladies with a good man, raise your hands!” as the group jumped into their Salt-N-Pepa collaboration “Whatta Man” while fans joined them in an electric slide dance. “Free Your Mind”, their hit song about racial tolerance, followed next.

Terry Ellis (Vocalist), En Vogue
Terry Ellis (Vocalist), En Vogue
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Their 40-minute set also included Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”, complete with air guitar, followed by a dynamic version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Something He Can Feel”. Showing appreciation to fans, Herron said, “It’s been 33 years now. Thank you for all the love and support.” 

TLC

TLC
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Multi-platinum artists TLC brought a dose of nostalgia to the stage. T-Boz (Tionne Watkins) still sports her asymmetrical locks, while Chilli (Rozonda Thomas) seems like she has not changed a bit. Four dancers and a live band provided support for the 90s R&B legends.

TLC’s live band and dancers
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

T-Boz said, “It’s hotter than h-e-double hockey sticks”, appealing to the compassion of the audience as they slowed things down a bit while she stood in front of a cooling fan. Their set kicked off with their debut hit “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” off their 1992 album Ooooooohhh, and included previously recorded raps by Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (the “L” in TLC) who tragically passed away in 2002.

Chilli (Vocalist), TLC
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“Baby-Baby-Baby” was next, and T-Boz’s signature gravelly voice transported the fans to the decade when MTV still played music videos and TLC was everywhere. Chilli sang while keeping in step with the four high-energy male dancers, showcasing dance styles from both the 90s and present day, while sporting iconic parachute pants from that era. To lead into the 1999 hit “Unpretty”, T-Boz remarked that social media is full of people trying to make everyone feel bad about themselves, and said the song should be listened to again. “Creep” was next, followed by solos from all of the dancers. While TLC took a cooling break, a DJ provided entertainment, playing mixed versions of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough”, Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling”, and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack hit “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”. 

T-Boz (Vocalist), TLC
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

On the stage’s backing screen, a video showed a guy riding as passenger in a car, along with a girl he aims to impress. Clearly leading up to “No Scrubs”, this hyped the crowd for the megahit from 1999’s Fanmail. T-Boz and Chilli turned their microphones to the concertgoers for the line “Can’t get wit’ a deadbeat ass” that they enthusiastically delivered. The screen then segued to footage of a high-contrast waterfall before their set ended with a performance “Waterfalls” from the CrazySexyCool album, which was released in 1994. Hearing the recording of Left Eye’s signature rap during this classic song while her bandmates performed it live was emotionally evocative. 

Shaggy

Shaggy - Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre
Shaggy
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

While many expected TLC as the headliner, Shaggy was the final act on this night. His set kicked off with “Mood”, after which he apologized for his obviously hoarse voice in his thick Jamaican accent. The charismatic reggae-rapper, born Orville Richard Burrell, burst onto the music scene in 1992, winning 2 of his 7 Grammy nominations, and is known for collaborations with various artists in multiple genres, including Sting from The Police. Still over 100 degrees at 10 p.m. in Phoenix, Shaggy quipped, “I’ve never had to perform in this much heat in my life,” as he tossed his trademark oversized sunglasses to the side stage. 

Shaggy with his live band
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

His set included samples of Bob Marley’s “One Love” and UB40’s “Red Red Wine” before he exclaimed, “We’re going to turn this bitch up” and transitioned to “In The Summertime” from Boombastic. He then grabbed his phone and turned around, taking a selfie with the crowd to “put y’all asses on YouTube”. Shaggy’s dance moves included ample provocative hip grinding, at one point suggestively stroking his microphone.

Shaggy
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

He delighted the crowd with “Angel” (his reimagining of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”), along with “Boombastic”, “Strength of a Woman”, and “It Wasn’t Me”. Fans especially loved his reggae version of Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” from the Sting-produced album Com Fly Wid Mi released May 2023.

90s music enthusiasts, filled with nostalgic memories of MTV videos, cassette tapes, and oversized baggy clothes, braved the heat in full force while passing on their love for the “old school” to younger generations. This Phoenix stop was, hands-down, the epitome of everything the “Hot Summer Nights” tour represents.

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

View Separately:
Shaggy | TLC | En Vogue | Sean Kingston | Nyce Hitz

Shaggy, TLC, En Vogue, & Sean Kingston – Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre 7-7-23

Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
All Rights Reserved.