It’s been 25 years since the release of Extreme’s second record Pornograffiti. I remember sitting in a meeting in 1990 at KNAC and our program director wanted us to tell him what our favorite album was of that year. Pornograffiti was my choice. A quarter of a century later I find myself at the House of Blues in Orlando Florida waiting for Extreme to come on stage and perform it in its entirety.
The show wasn’t sold out, but pretty close to it. The big curtains part and….nothing. Since they were doing Pornograffiti from start to finish the first song of the night was going to be Decadence Dance. There’s a piano into to the song that didn’t get played. So the first sound was the guitar of Nuno Bettancourt . It started as a hum, then an extended chord, then to the beginning of the song. From that moment on and for the next two and a half hours Extreme owned the world.
Extreme is a band that flourishes live. They are four very unique individuals that form a machine. The new guy is drummer Kevin Figueiredo, although he has been in the band since 2007. Curly hair and big mutton chops, he bashes his way through the songs. Bassist Pat Badger could just be the most underrated bass players in the history of rock. There are a lot of funky rhythms in an Extreme set. Is he the guy they refer to in “Get the Funk Out” (“Not bad for a pasty face white boy”).
Nuno is the guitar hero’s guitar hero. It’s almost not fair to watch him play. He is one of the very few players, where it looks like the guitar is a part of his body. He or somebody needs to invent a guitar that is more difficult for him to play. Just to challenge him. He also plays the instrument harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. There are times when you think, if he misses the strings with his pick a part of his finger could fly off!
That brings us to singer Gary Cherone. First, the man can sing. He has a great vocal range. It’s his stage presence that completely captivates you. He’s all over the place, with dance moves that are more primal rhythmic gymnastics. Normally he’s one to play ringmaster at the Extreme live circus. On this night, however, he was feeling under the weather and according to Nuno he was pretty sick. If you happened to miss him saying that you would never know. Gary sounded great and never missed a beat.
While standing in line to get into the show, two young girls came up to our part of the line and to no one in particular. “Is Exteme playing tonight? Those are the two guys with guitars that sing that song¸right?”
Yes, but so much more!
As they ran through Pornagraffiti, the songs came alive. It was especially cool to hear them do songs they didn’t do when the album was new like “When I First Kissed You.” On that particular song Nuno traded out the guitar to play piano.
The final song from the record was also one of the big hit “Hole Hearted.” Drummer Kevin came to the front of the stage to play a drum and cymbal. Nuno on the acoustic and they brought the house down as it morphed into “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love” From Queen.
After a short break they came back to do another 6 songs including kicking it off with the frenetic “Play with Me” from their first record. Again it was amazing to watch knowing that Gary was sick. When it was over every member of the band jumped into the photographer’s well to shake hands with as many people as the possibly could.
Every aspiring rock star should have to see Extreme to see how it is done. Full out effort and musicianship. They seemed happy and grateful to be playing and we felt the same watching and listening.