Living Colour's welcome entry into the excellent New Morning: The Paris Concert DVD series goes a long way in making up for the ridiculously short run time of their previous concert DVD – last year's, On Stage at World Café Live. Where that one whittled down a career-spanning, two-hour performance to a measly 58-minutes for the DVD, The Paris Concert gives you the entire 19-song, 107 minute set they hammered out at the New Morning club last year.
Although these American funk-rock masters have been together for about a quarter century now, they only have four studio albums to show for it, thanks in part to a six year layoff during the late 90's. Word has it, however, that a new album is in the works, and is tentatively scheduled for an early 2009 release. It will be their first since 2003's Collideøscope, an album that has divided more Living Colour fans than any other, and is easily my least favorite.
To this day, I can still throw on Living Colour's phenomenal debut album, Vivid, and get my rocks off without fail. I cannot say the same about their other three albums, which I felt were each progressively worse than the last. The band indulged in too much experimental nonsense, which got in the way of the good songs. These amazing musicians are not ones to get up on stage and play note-for-note renditions of all the hits either. A Living Colour show is always going to feature loads of improvisational detours that will prevent each song from ever sounding the same twice. This can be as equally frustrating as it is mesmerizing.
The Paris Concert was filmed in High Definition at the New Morning Club, Paris, France, on July 19th, 2007. The 19-song setlist provides a good career overview, showcasing at least a couple of songs from each of their four studio albums, as well as a few non-album covers. They also temporarily hand over the lead vocal duties to bassist Doug Wimbish on an excellent new song, "Either Way." I hope to see that one on the new album.
For some reason, the track listing on the DVD case, as well as the official press release, do not include two of the songs that were performed this night. "Wall" and "Times Up" were both missing from the list, and they bump up the official song tally to nineteen.
Like most of the other videos in the New Morning concert DVD series, this is a very no-frills release. The packaging is about as minimal as you can get, with no special features, or even a simple booklet included. The video hastily begins after the band has already taken the stage, wasting no time with such pleasantries as backstage footage or band introductions.
After a quick "Bonsoir Paris" from the lips of Vernon Reid, he kicks off the show with a frantically-paced run-through of "Type." The song was played so fast that Reid's memorable guitar riffs were nearly lost in the shuffle. Wimbish simply couldn't restrain himself from adding some trippy, "look what I can do" sound effects throughout the song – and throughout much of the set too – which was usually more distracting than enhancing. I did love the extended reggae section that the band broke into towards the end of the song though. Do you see my dilemma? And this was just the first song.
By the second song, "Middle Man," things smoothed out nicely and the band was grooving hard and furious to one of their heaviest songs. The incredible funk-fusion of "Funny Vibe" then reminds you that Living Colour are certainly not just your typical bunch of black funk, jazz, soul, punk, metal rockers. You better have some eclectic musical tastes to fully appreciate a Living Colour show.
The setlist provides a good career overview, showcasing at least a couple of songs from each of their four studio albums, as well as a few covers. Four songs are performed from their 2003 comeback album, Collideøscope, and they are a mixed bag just like the album. The dark and furious rocker, "Song Without Sin," is one of the better tracks off the album, but "Sacred Ground" should have remained just a Stain leftover. The song, which received new life on their 1995 Pride compilation, and then again on Collideøscope, was mercilessly transformed into a 13-minute monstrosity, replete with avant-garde jazz noodlings. And to think they left great songs like "Pride" and "Open Letter" off the set.
"Flying" comes much later in the set, and other than being my personal favorite from the Collideøscope album, it provides one of the highlight performances of the show. Reid lays down one of his most expressive guitar solos to date, and all four band members really get to shine on this one. As much as these guys shine musically, they are not exactly the most dynamic group to watch. I realize that the New Morning stage was rather small, but these guys hardly moved from their sweet spots the whole show, and frontman Corey Glover said maybe three words to the crowd the whole night. Perhaps he thought that nobody could understand English in Paris. But aren't his lyrics…Ah, never mind.
Some of the other performance highlights came by way of the cover songs. "Memories Can't Wait," the Talking Heads number that Living Colour wildly reinvented on the Vivid album was killer, as usual. The Motown classic, "Papa Was A Rolling Stone," and Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic" were about as good as it gets. Speaking of Hendrix, Reid's frantic guitar style, especially his solos, have always reminded me of if you listened to Are You Experienced on 78 rpm's, instead of 33 1/3 – not that I sit around and listen to albums on the wrong speed all the time.
As with most of the other videos in the New Morning concert DVD series, Living Colour's Paris Concert includes some impressive sites and sounds. The DVD includes both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio tracks as well as a PCM stereo mix. The widescreen picture looks superb, and the steady camera work puts you right into the front row of this intimate Paris music club. Unfortunately, there is not even a hint of any special features included on the DVD.
New Morning: The Paris Concert is another solid concert DVD release from Living Colour, but I think that their best work is still yet to come. Hopefully next year's new album will prove me right.
02. Middle Man
03. Funny Vibe
04. Song Without Sin
07. Sacred Ground
08. Memories Can't Wait
09. Papa Was A Rolling Stone
10. Glamour Boys
11. Crosstown Traffic
12. Go Away
13. Either Way
14. Ignorance Is Bliss
15. Drum Solo
17. Love Rears Its Ugly Head
18. Time's Up
19. Cult Of Personality