How does a band once considered innovative enough to be on the inaugural Lollapalooza festival in 1991, along with seminal groups such as Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails, find itself relegated to a 40-minute festival set at 1:30 p.m.?
When Living Colour took the stage, the front-row crowd largely consisted of Killers fans staking their turf for their hometown heroes’ performance eight hours later, but the New York-based veteran rockers quickly won over the audience, which grew substantially throughout the set.
Drawing primarily from their 1988 debut Vivid, Living Colour showcased all the elements that made them one of the most exciting acts of their generation. Singer Corey Glover’s gospel-honed tenor ranged from soulful growls to high-pitched screams on songs such as “Middle Man” and “Ignorance Is Bliss,” bringing cheers from the crowd when he reached the upper registers. Vernon Reid, at age 55, was simply the best guitarist at the festival, bending notes and playing with lightning-quick Eddie Van Halen-like precision as he jumped from thrash to funk to jazz on “Desperate People” and “Funny Vibe.” Bassist Doug Wimbish gave a guitar-like solo toward the end of the funky “Bi,” and drummer Will Calhoun performed an adventurous solo accompanied by a backing track that he programmed on his electronic Mandala drum.
Living Colour, which disbanded in 1995 before regrouping in the early 2000s, punctuated its set by closing with its high-octane signature song, “Cult of Personality,” followed by a playful cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” This was one festival where the old folks definitely rocked harder than the kids did. ★★★★☆