Living Colour remains to this minute one of the greatest rock bands on God's green earth, and it says much about Anthrax that they were able follow Vernon Reid's bunch onto the stage and continue to blow folks away. Corey Taylor, Scott Ian's nu-metal pal showed that he's equally at home with an acoustic guitar and a microphone as he is fronting brutally hard rock.
Classic rock and metal are alive and well in the burgeoning world of gambling and gaming. Where once these genres filled arenas and theaters, time has marched on and many great bands and shows have been relegated to being draws for casinos.
The downside is the fact that like it or not, time marches on and no great music stays in the mainstream forever - the upside is that these casinos have better sound, stages, lights, and facilities than their counterparts ever had, they keep these acts earning, and they provide a place for people to see some great entertainment by some very viable bands.
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Thunder Valley Casino is located near Sacramento, California, and they consistently put on great shows that feature the best of the past, and some of what is current - last Friday night they brought in That Metal Show Presents: Anthrax, Living Colour, and Corey Taylor, and it was a fantastic evening of rock 'n' roll.
I ran into Eddie Trunk and his crew before the show - we had a nice chat, and agreed that Ace Frehley's new album, 'Space Invader' is indeed, aces. Trunk seems like a genuinely cool guy, and I'm a huge fan of his work. You have to love anyone who's helping keep the ship of classic and hard rock alive as much as that guy does.
After chatting with Trunk and having a few pre-gig libations with my comrades in crime for the evening, we walked out into the fading afternoon sun, and were greeted by Corey Taylor blowing the folks away with nothing but an acoustic guitar some great stories, and an incredible voice and presence. That he could pull off a brilliant covers of Johnny Cash, Elvis, The Misfits (all in one medley), and the Chris Isaak chestnut 'Wicked Game' in between Slipknot and Stone Sour numbers gone non-electric speaks volumes for the guy's talent. The audience was with him on every note and strum.
Next up on the bill was the band that brought me to this dance, the legend of Living Colour. The band has been on a roll since their twenty-fifth anniversary tour for their 'Vivid' album in 2013, and they're close to finishing their first new album since 2009s 'The Chain In The Doorway'. It's to be called 'Shade', and it will be out this fall, but we're getting the cart out in front of the horse here.
Living Colour is one of those bands that evokes the words genius and legend, and these words are well earned. Even in the imperfect setting of 90 plus degrees and a crowd just arriving, the band blew me away just as much as when I first saw them at the the Whiskey A Go-Go back in 1988.
Vernon Reid remains one of the world's best guitarists. His style is as eclectic as ever, hard to comprehend for many, but that style finds him continually straddling the lines between writing classic rock riffs and displaying startlingly brilliant jazz chops in a way I've always found irresistible. He blithely tosses off runs and licks that defy description, while looking on in his bemused fashion. Surely, no one knows better than Vernon the challenge that he presents for the rock audience, but that audience was with him on this night.
Corey Glover covered the stage like a caged lion, his power being barely held by his surroundings - he was aided by a perfect sound system, and some huge video monitors, and his voice has never sounded better. Living Colour has always resisted the temptation of being just another band that tours to flaunt their hits and pick up their checks. They've only gathered when they felt they had something to say, and I'm glad that they're currently on a roll.
Opening with Robert Johnson's 'Preachin' Blues', the band sounded like they were on a mission - bassist Doug Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun are one of the tightest rhythm sections in rock, and they both make it seem too easy as they drive the band through some fantastically complex changes. They provide the perfect platform for Reid and Glover's songs and virtuosity. Living Colour always deliver the good, and on this night they did my rock 'n' roll heart the world of good. Greatness still exists, and rock ain't near dead.
Anthrax. By the time the New York thrash legends hit the boards the sun had gone down, the stage had been set by two excellent opening sets, and with Jonathan Donais (Shadows Fall) expertly filling the shoes of departed lead guitarists Dan Spitz and Rob Caggiano, this is as close to a perfect Anthrax lineup as we will ever see.
Scott Ian, bassist Frank Bello, and drummer Charlie Benante have always been the engine that has driven this enterprise, and they are an unstoppable rock 'n' roll machine. Since singer Joey Belladonna's return to the fold in 2010, the band has been steadily building on their legend, and this show proved their point.
Their set could have been much longer, but they were playing by the casino's rules, and not their own, so I'll take what we could get, and that was a precise example of what makes Anthrax perhaps the shining light of their generation. The crowd was on board from beginning to end, and no one went home without a smile upon their face.
For those who say rock 'n' roll is dead, I will say that you could not be more full of shit. Granted, it's tough times for rock, but it's also in better shape than it's been in years - this touring season has been sensational, and promises to get even better. Shows like this, bands like these, and people like Eddie Trunk and his friends at That Metal Show are waving the freak flag high and more than keeping the ship afloat.