So let’s take ourselves back in time to 1990 as a over 2,000 people head into Birmingham to see veteran (this makes me feel old) rockers as they bring their classic album, ‘Pornograffitti’ to town. They be performing it from top to bottom in it’s entirety in track order. Get your singing voice ready and be prepared to rock with Extreme.
Extreme were formed in the mid 80s in the Boston area of Massachusetts, USA. After initial success they got the deal and recorded the album they are performing tonight, ‘Extreme II: Pornograffi’ featuring the mega ballad ‘More Than Words’ that struck a cord in the UK making Number 2 in the charts in ’91, let alone attaining world-wide acclaim. The band went on to release a further two albums before disbanding in ’96. Lead singer Gary Cherone went on to join Van Halen (following in the shoes of Dave Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar) before going solo; Nuno Bettencourt, the uber-talented guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, also went solo between forming various bands. And then over the years Extreme sporadically come back together, performing and producing their fourth studio album in 2008. Extreme 2014 edition are Gary Cherone (vocals), Nuno Bettencourt (guitar and keys), Pat Badger (bass) and Kevin Figueiredo (drums).
So when Extreme has this success in their hey day, they were at odd with a grunge obsessed rock scene. I saw Extreme at this time, at Wolves Civic. It was at a time when a) bands stopped touring because there was no money in it (!) and b) there was NO venues in Brum (!!) – literally the nearest venue mid sized venue was Wolves Civic. It was half empty and most the people were there to see a set they thought would variation on the ‘More Than Words’ theme. But to their shock it was a heavy rock gig and I remember most the audience being totally flummoxed. I enjoyed it. But then again, I like the alternative / heavy side. And it was a rare gig at the time.
Support tonight comes from Leogun – pronounced ‘Leo-Gun’- which according to their Facebook page – “Believed to be a were-lion, LEOGUN was a half man, half lion.”
This three-piece hail from Londinium, and deliver an eclectic mix of blues, soul and one hell of a whole lotta rock & roll. Leogun are funky, rocking and grinding it down – old style rock and roll with stoner rock thrown in for good measure, their mob-heads head-banging to their rock funk sound. Definitely a band for the future – expect to see far more of them – and the audience really appreciate them tonight.
So as the lights go down and there’s very big cheer, the speakers pump out thunder and pianos, the audience clap clap clap – and the guitar cranks up….
Cherone version 2014 has the all hair back, and Bettencourt remains great eye candy for the ladies. First track is ‘Decadent Dance’ all funked up and chanty – though maybe hasn’t stood the test of time musically too well. Regardless the crowd love it – the light’s are on the crow, the band grinning like Cheshire cats.
And as they roll through the rock funk album, Extreme remain musically tight – vocals fully harmonized; rocking on down. Pornograffitti ‘live’ is far heavier than on vinyl, CD, digital (whatever the current options!) and Cherone know’s which city he’s in – ‘Birmingham’ as he encourages the audience.
Then the bass boots up, the guitar cranks in and we’re into the track with the ‘replacement’ word – we’ll be ‘Getting the Funk Out’ then. The crowd sing the chorus nice and loudly.… “If you don’t like what you see here, get the funk out; we won’t try to force-feed you, get the funk out….” Accompanied by this chant, Bettencourt completes with a guitar epic and a big cheer rises fro the crowd – for themselves and Bettencourt.
Bettencourt’s the one doing the talking, he’s chatty and seated and his acoustic guitar has appear ed on stage. There just Bettencourt and Cherone, the later now with his hair tied back. And here we go…’More Than Words.’ The crowd sing – every word. Bettencourt stops playing and watches in wonder; Cherone conducts. As a recent artist I reviewed commented: every band, no matter how big has a magic moment. And this be Extreme’s. No lighters waving from side to side these days – just everyone feeling the need to film… “Beautiful’ acknowledges Bettencourt and him and Cherone take up the mantle. To huge applause. This track maybe Extreme’s albatross, that single track that identifies them about above all the rest, but they are milking it for very moment – and the crowd love it.
There can be problems when bands perform albums in track order – because the set can dip – but Extreme are on a mission and for the next few we’re back into their rock n roll funk. Cherone is enthusiastic, energetically pacing the stage, encouraging the audience – Bettencourt in full on axe merchant at times – he’s ludicrously talented. ‘It(’s a Monster)’ gets us bouncing along. “How are you feeling tonight ‘cos you sound incredible…”
Seated again, things calming down from the frenetic rock funk. Bettencourt does chopsticks on a piano – before he goes all classical and blues, Cherone joining in on vocals – a total departure in genre – ‘When I First Kissed You.’
Bettencourt quips he can no longer do what he is about to do – yeah right – as he gives us a frenetic guitar rendition of ‘Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee’ as he becomes full on axe-merchant and the band continue with ‘He-Man Woman Hater.’
And then we get sing-a-long-Extreme-in-Brum – with full on harmonies “…all for one and one for all…”. Outside of Bon Jovi, Extreme have got to be one of the most sing-along rock bands….
Thank you for making us feel so much at home… sing along with this one please…” ‘Hole Hearted’(ly) we do. This is exactly what Extreme do best. And then we get a snippet of acoustic version of Queen’s ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ – we’re all still singing!
Extreme are a band clearly love playing live.They’re energetic and enthusiastic – each member showing of their individual musical prowess in bucket-loads. This album was released right in the middle of grunge – in some ways out of time for such a glam-pop-funk-rock themed album. And you have to say, while Extreme rock out as good as any band, it is their sing-a-long hits ‘Hole Hearted’ and ‘More Than Words’ that are the clear standouts by a country mile. Extreme are fun – and if you like your music on the lighter side – be warned at times they are heavy and loud. Did we get the funk out? We partied indeed – we didn’t get outta there. Worth seeing – if they’re your thang – more than words can say.
Li’l Jack Horny
When I’m President
Get the Funk Out
More Than Words
Money (In God We Trust)
It (’s a Monster)
When I First Kissed You
Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)
Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee / He-Man Woman Hater
Song for Love
Play with Me
Rest in Peace
Am I Ever Gonna Change