More From Living Colour: "You All Are Very LOUD In Houston"
Photo by Karsten Staiger
While Living Colour's current tour celebrates the 25th anniversary of their debut -- and most popular -- record, Vivid, the band has also put out four other worthy studio discs - Time's Up (1990), Stain (1993), Collideøscope (2003), and their most recent, 2009's The Chair In the Doorway.
"The newest one is the first record where we had the title first," guitarist Vernon Reid says. "It came from a phrase that Corey was using at the time with his Zen calm some years ago. It's something concrete and abstract. It's like the elephant in the room, it's something that's there and maybe blocks your way, but nobody talks about."
And while it wasn't the commercial and popular-culture comeback that the band perhaps had hoped for, they know they can count on a core audience to come see them live.
"This record, there wasn't much difference in how we approached it or how we sounded from the other ones," Glover adds. "We road-tested a bunch of songs before we recorded them, so some don't sound the same as the original demos. We fixed what we thought needed to be fixed."
As a band, Living Colour has always used current events and history as sources for material, but perhaps none of the tracks inspired by those areas are as fine as "Flying" from Collideøscope, the best song about September 11 that you've never heard.
Sung sweetly by Glover to a deceptively gentle and lolling melody, it's a narrative told from the point of view of a man on the way down after jumping from a window of the World Trade Center. All while holding the hand of an office co-worker he planned on asking out for a date that day.
Such a lovely day to go flying Sky so clear the sun is shining Fate has given me wings Such a terrible funny thing
The song was inspired by an actual news photograph of two WTC workers escaping the fire and chaos, perhaps choosing the lesser of two evils in terms of causes of death.
"Those photos were taken in a moment that was seminal. And for obvious reasons, it was very... sacred. There was a sacred look on the gentleman's face as he was falling," Glover says. "It was haunting, but there was a dignity in the moment. Reid adds that he's "very proud" of the song.
When he's not fronting Living Colour, Glover has also worked as a singer/actor, most famously playing Judas in a national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar against Ted Neeley, who played Jesus in the 1973 movie version.
For the Living Colour shows he missed as a result, vocalist duties were covered by none other than Houstonian Dug Pinnick of King's X. Reid says of Pinnick, "he was the only person who could do that job. If he said no, we weren't going to tour. It worked out well."
But this was a chance the Glover was not going to miss, especially since he cited that very same 1973 movie as his initial inspiration for singing at all.
"I saw it with my parents when I was 8 or 9, and I watched Carl Anderson as Judas, and I thought 'that's exactly' what I want to do!' It put me on that path," Glover enthuses. "And Carl was a rock singer, just like Ted and [original cast members] Ian Gillan and Murray Head. That informed my whole world!"
Glover also notes that - as Anderson died in 2004 - he felt humbled to take up the character's mantle. And he enthused about Neeley's performance: "I mean, Ted was in his mid-sixties and still playing Jesus! And he pulled it off!"
As for Houston, Glover says that he doesn't have any specific memories, but a more general one having to do with volume.
"You all are very LOUD in Houston, I know that! Louder than other cities," he laughs. "I've met a lot of big personalities in Houston, and I've friends who moved there. And they all completely changed. They got louder!"
Fans of Living Colour will no doubt be happy to finally see the band. The last planned gig -- a 2009 show on The Chair in the Doorway tour -- was cancelled abruptly when the band got a chance to play on TV's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." The show was not rescheduled.
On a personal note, this writer is glad to see them for the first time since the 1993 Stain tour when they played the now-defunct International Ballroom with Bad Brains opening. Though this writer can also no longer fit into that tour's T-shirt.
"Ha!" Glover -- who also has a new independent solo record, The Pledge, out -- responds. "Well, we do have some larger T-shirts for this tour. We're all getting paunchier!"
Still, Reid says that he is grateful for every audience at every stop of every tour, something he says he'll never lose sight of.
"We're not coming at you like millionaires pretending to be everyday people, that's not what our music is," he says. "So for people to come out and hear live music during a down economy, it's a moving thing.
"I feel like -- I'm not going to get weepy -- but I am going to be moved every night we go onstage. We -- the band and the audience -- are in this together."
Living Colour performs with Brandon West and the Black Hats perform Sunday at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Note: Reid's quotes come from an unpublished 2009 interview he gave to Rocks Off just prior to that cancelled Houston gig.
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