Those who braved the chilly temperature Wednesday night were rewarded in the form of Living Colour. In an intimate Shank Hall setting, Living Colour's top-notch musicianship and versatility is evident. After more than 20 years as a unit, the band has a comfort level with one another, and each member seamlessly moves his paint brush along the canvas.
On "Sacred Ground," guitarist Vernon Reid turned the tune's simple 4/4 time on its ear, and played an extended solo. The aspiring guitar players in the audience took notice, roaring with their approval. The showering of notes was akin to Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai.
Reid, one of the best rock guitar players around, seemed distant at the beginning of the set, but was smiling and joking soon enough. During "Solace of You," Reid's finger-picking could be mistaken for a country player's. And with the 1989 hit "Glamour Boys" from their classic album "Vivid," Reid and the rest of the band broke out the funk.
The show did take on a serious tone at one point. On "Flying," from their new album, "CollideOScope," Glover sings about lives lost on 9/11. His poignant lyrics and Reid's ethereal guitar work made this a high point of the show.
Never shy, Glover also provided social commentary on growing up in New York City. "Open Letter to a Landlord" describes Glover's old neighborhood, and the soulful, soaring chorus would make Luther Vandross proud.
Drummer Will Calhoun was then given the spotlight. During a long solo of Spinal Tap proportions, Calhoun beat the skins over various drum loops and other sound effects. Vastly underrated, Calhoun proved he is the tireless heart beat of the band.
Bassist Doug Wimbish was also given his time in the spotlight. Singing lead, Wimbish led the band through an untitled new song.
During the encores, Living Colour served up the goods. The thrash-driven "Time's Up" was a good way to start, with Reid taking another extended guitar solo. Next was the band's biggest hit, "Cult of Personality." Quotes from John F. Kennedy are peppered throughout the track, as well references to Gandhi as other political figures. Living Colour truly was Rage Against the Machine before there was a Rage Against the Machine.