It’s very much the season of bands coming through and celebrating classic albums. Performing a whole album in full was a novelty a couple of years back when Slayer did it with Reigning Blood, but now it’s a fairly commonplace way of celebrating an anniversary. Love/Hate, Behemoth and Fear Factory are three off the top of my head that I’ve seen doing this recently.
Extreme decided to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their gajillion-copy selling Pornograffitti album by rattling the whole thing off as a set, and the show from May 30th 2015 at The Joint (Hard Rock Casino, Las Vegas) was recorded for this live set. The full show is on the CD, DVD and Blu-Ray (mixed to 5.1 for the latter two) along with some special guest appearances on the video formats plus a documentary.
The album is played through in order and, even as a non-Extreme fan, I recognised most of them. Age is obviously not something that’s been unkind to the band as they have the presence and energy of an act two decades younger. Perhaps there’s not so much actual leaping around on stage as there may have been in the 90’s, but frontman Gary Cherone must do yoga or something to be able to bend himself into a pretzel shape without dropping a note.
Bassist Pat Badger stomps and struts (and sweats) as any bassist is apt to do, chucking in backing vocals here and there. Nuno Bettencourt can still shred with the best of them, rattling off incredible solos without missing a single tap, pull-off, bend or pinch harmonic. The only member of the band not present from the original album is drummer Kevin Figueiredo, replacing previous skinsman Paul Geary who left the band in 2006.
Sound and picture-wise there’s no faulting this release. All instruments and vocals are completely intact, and where appropriate this includes the audience noise. This, for me, is hugely important with a live album. Otherwise you might as well get the band into a room and ask them to jam out the album rather than putting them on stage. Indeed for “More Than Words”, the crowd is all you can hear in places as the band halt completely and let the inhabitants of Las Vegas carry the tune themselves.
Back in the day when Pornograffitti came out, I was well into my metal/thrash phase so I overlooked it. Yes, I heard those songs – you couldn’t avoid them at the rock clubs and the handful of radio shows still playing decent music – but I preferred to wave my hands at them as not being heavy enough. Thankfully as the years have gone on, I’ve listened to a wider range of music and to finally actually hear the album in full is a treat. To hear it played live even more so.
The audience is interesting to watch, though. You can easily spot the more favoured tracks as the “stand and watch” turns to “fists pumping”. The title track is very much one of the former, with only a lone headbanger right in the middle really going for it! “Song For Love”, unsurprisingly, has much in the way of side-to-side armwaving (and probably much hugging afterwards).
Dropped randomly into show are little interviews with other musicians – Brian May who compliments Bettencourt’s guitars, Steve Tyler who remembers playing “More Than Words” live with him at the Nobel awards, Tom Morello who pretty much hero-worships him… Frankly, my fingers got tired watching him play “Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee”… The DVD/BR also includes “Play With Me” and “Cupid’s Dead” as the credits roll.
Like many bands, Extreme have taken a break or two. Here’s hoping that this time they’re back for the long run.
Pornograffitti Live At Hard Rock Las Vegas is out on October 14th, 2016. You can pre-order the CD version on Amazon and help fund this website.