I hadn't thought much about Extreme since the last time I got my funk out to their chart topping second album, Pornograffitti, nearly 20 years ago. The album was propelled by the acoustic ballad, "More Than Words," which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. and made the band a household name back in the early '90s. After two decreasingly successful follow up albums, 1992's III Sides To Every Story, and 1995's Waiting The Punchline, Extreme eventually disbanded in 1996.
Lead vocalist, Gary Cherone had a brief stint in Van Halen, appearing on the critically savaged Van Halen III album of 1998, before parting ways the very next year. Extreme reformed in 2004 and went on to release the 2008 album, Saudades de Rock, and now this Extremely excellent new concert DVD, Take Us Alive.
Take Us Alive was recorded at the House of Blues on August 8th, 2009, in Extreme's hometown of Boston, MA. I was never more than just a mild fan of Extreme's music, mostly for Nuno Bettencourt's superhuman guitar wizardry, but Take Us Alive has provided my wife and I with a couple of the funnest concert DVD nights we have had in a while.
If I was a Nuno Bettencourt fan before, I am now ready to kneel before him and kiss his black nail polished fingers in admiration, after watching what he did to his guitar fretboard this night. Holy smokes, this guy can play. Although that was no real surprise, Gary Cherone's killer performance was. I have never been a huge fan of Cherone's vocals, but he was certainly spot on this night, and he gave one of his best performances when it really mattered – when you're filming your first concert DVD.
The DVD begins with a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, right before the band prepares to take the stage. They open the show with one of my favorite Extreme numbers, "Decadence Dance," which immediately lets you know that the old chemistry is still firmly in tact. One of the most intriguing new songs of the night, "Comfortably Dumb," comes next, and although it pays slight homage to the Pink Floyd "Comfortably Numb" classic with its repetitive "I have become comfortably dumb" chorus, it is all classic Extreme funk-metal magic.
Surprisingly two of the highlights of the DVD for me were the two songs they performed from 1995's Waiting The Punchline album. "Tell Me Something I Don't Know" has a sort of Ted Nugent "Stranglehold" bass line propelling the song, and this leaves Bettencourt with plenty of room stretch out and show off his stuff. By now Bettencourt is completely shirtless, and, for a middle aged guy like myself, he is ripped like a UFC welterweight fighter. "Midnight Express" finds him sitting down with an acoustic guitar playing something you might hear in a Portuguese courtyard on a warm summer night, proving he also has plenty of finesse to compliment his shredding skills.
The production quality of this DVD is exceptional. The Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 Surround tracks are both perfectly mixed and sound superb. The widescreen picture was nearly flawless and the camera work puts you right down in the front row. The only special features were four videos for the songs "King Of The Ladies," "Interface," "Run," and "Ghost," from their latest album Saudades de Rock.
The band plays for just over 100 minutes and calls upon all five of their studio albums to complete this 17 song setlist. The chemistry they displayed on stage appears to indicate that they have put aside most of the differences they once had and are now really enjoying being Extreme again. They will be out on tour with Ratt this summer. Go see for yourself.