Hampton Beach is a weird place to see a show. As much as town officials keep trying to recreate the town as a family summer vacation destination, it remains the party town of New England. It's a trashy boardwalk beach, and most live musical entertainment tends to be cover bands and bands on the nostalgia circuit. It's the kind of place where people who are already there on vacation will see a band is playing that they remember one song of and go, trying to recapture their glory days. I have to really want to see a band to go there during the summer. I was on the fence with the Living Colour show at Wally's, but once theWorst were added to the bill, it became a must see.
Let's get this part out of the way: Guitarist Vernon Reid fell off the stage before the band played even one note. He approached the front of the stage carrying his guitar and took a tumble right off. This is something that cancels entire tours, and the man is sixty four, so the night could have ended before it even began. But, Reid popped up much quicker than I would have, got back onstage, waved at the crowd, and laughed it off. Badass, indeed.
I was definitely worried what the crowd would be like Tuesday night. It could very well have been filled with people in middle age that remember "Cult of Personality" and decided to try to party it up like they were teenagers again to disastrous results. While there were a handful of fans in that camp, most of the crowd were diehard fans who knew the words to every song and clearly loved Living Colour. Seeing them live for the first time, it's easy to see why. Vernon Reid may be the greatest guitarist alive playing small clubs. He was pulling out these insane solos that were mind-blowing and mesmerizing. The entire band played this loose style that can only be achieved by playing together for years, and allowed for some improvised moments. While many of their peers are obviously still playing for a paycheck, you could tell Living Colour were enjoying themselves up there.
That could be because they seemed to be playing exactly what they wanted. Sure, "Cult of Personality" was played, but they also played three songs after it, almost daring casual fans to head out early. They skipped other moderate hit singles like "Glamour Boys" in favor of fan favorites like "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" and "Elvis Is Dead." They also played a shocking number of covers. They opened with Talking Heads' "Memories Can't Wait" and closed with The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" In between that, they played a hip hop medley of "White Lines," "Apache," and "The Message," some of "Nothing Compares 2 U," and even a bit of "Hound Dog" after "Elvis Is Dead." The hip hop medley did surprisingly well, considering most of the crowd was an older, white, male rock one.
theWorst came down from Maine for the show, and had a nearly impossible task. Opening for a long established band in front of a crowd just waiting for you to get off the stage is tough for every band, but they pulled it off. Like I said, this ended up being a crowd of die hard music fans, and theWorst's Nirvana meets Joan Jett sound worked out perfectly. Slowly, the crowd got more and more into it, and between each song the applause went from polite to enthusiastic. The trio just let their music speak for them, and it did. Singer/guitarist Brooke Binion just has that 90's style star power that is irresistible. You know how there are bands you really like until you see them live, and then you suddenly become a hardcore fan? That's how it was with me and theWorst, and now I'll be regretting all the shows I've missed the past few years...