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Genre-blending Living Colour marks 30th anniversary at World Cafe Live

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN 
bbingaman@thereporteronline.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter

“Everything that goes around comes around,” Living Colour’s Corey Glover sang on the song “Type” from that band’s gold-selling 1990 album “Time’s Up.”
On-again and off-again since formally reuniting in 2000, the band members have been busy making solo albums, forming other bands, producing other artists, traveling (drummer Will Calhoun) and even performing as Judas Iscariot in a touring version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (Glover). But the time has come for Living Colour to come around once again to celebrate a milestone.
“Now you’re scaring me,” said guitarist Vernon Reid in a phone interview, when he was reminded it was 30 years ago when he first formed the band in New York City.
Along the way, Living Colour has won the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance twice, sold more than 2 million copies of their 1988 debut “Vivid” and was part of the inaugural Lollapalooza tour, while fusing rock, metal, funk, hip-hop, jazz and world music.
A self-described gadget geek, Reid reported that the band is working on a new blues-influenced album for next year called “Shade.” “We’re going to play some of our newer things and just see how people feel about that,” he said of the upcoming Dec. 1 concert at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live.
“Philadelphia is a place of power artistically,” said Reid, mentioning “the Philly sound,” jazz saxophonists Odean Pope and John Coltrane, the “Illadelph” hip-hop community, as well as The Roots.
“I want to give a big shout out to Rich,” he said of Rich Nichols, who managed The Roots until passing away from leukemia this summer. The band is part of a long who’s-who list of people Reid has recorded with.
That list includes Cream bassist and singer Jack Bruce, who passed away Oct. 25. Reid said: “He’s as awesome as his music would lead you to believe.”
Named No. 66 on a 2013 list compiled by “Rolling Stone” of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, Reid promised a show with “energy and soul” with a dose of Living Colour’s back catalog. “There will be some chances taken,” he said.
When asked to reflect on the 25 years that have passed since the band’s signature song, “Cult of Personality,” first hit MTV (lately professional wrestlers have taken to using it as their theme song), Reid was enthusiastic, yet concerned, about how relevant it still is because it poses what he called an unanswerable existential question — “Why do you follow this person?” The song makes references to Mahatma Ghandi, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.
“It’s kind of evolved, or devolved, into the cult of celebrity,” he said. “The most dangerous person in any room is the one everybody will listen to. That’s why inciting a riot is such a serious charge.”
Speaking of riot situations, as news develops on a pending Missouri grand jury ruling related to the Michael Brown incident from August, Reid also reflected on the currency of the song “Funny Vibe” from “Vivid,” which scolds those who make wrong-headed snap judgments about a stranger based on their race.
“It came out of an experience that enraged me. I got on an elevator and an old lady cringed to the point of clinging to her handbag. I couldn’t have been less menacing,” he said.
Besides Nichols and Bruce, Reid is also mourning the 2013 passing of Ronald Shannon Jackson, a drummer he regarded as a father figure, who gave him his start as a professional musician. That’s why Reid’s jam-of-the-moment is the 1969 song “A Salty Dog” by Procol Harum, which has imagery of being on a journey or a quest.
“It’s important to still want to create. I still feel energized about projects with (Living Colour), as well as doing stuff myself,” he said.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Living Colour in concert.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Dec. 1.
WHERE: World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia.
TICKETS: $25-$37.
INFO: Call (215) 222-1400 or visit www.worldcafelive.com.

 

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