Extreme @Newcastle O2 City Hall, November 27 2023
When Nuno Bettencourt casually tossed his newly acquired Newcastle United baseball cap towards the City Hall floor, a febrile atmosphere was suddenly raised a notch.
Not that the ageless axe slinger needed an added gimmick to ingratiate himself with a capacity crowd on the opening night of Extreme’s UK tour.
The chants of ‘Nuuuno’ — strikingly similar to those frequently aimed at Magpies ace Bruno Guimarães — had been ringing out from the moment Bettencourt emerged from the wings.
And let’s face it. If you weren’t on Tyneside to catch a glimpse of crossover legends Living Colour then you were here to see one of rock’s most celebrated guitar heroes.
Extreme’s Gary Cherone is used to it by now, of course, but he remains that rare example of a singer playing second fiddle to the six stringer.
Anyone flanking Ritchie Blackmore through the decades immediately falls into that category.
There’s a legion of AC/DC fans who flock to the Aussie band’s shows more for Angus than Brian.
And Tosin Abasi tends to pull in the crowds whenever Animals As Leaders are in town.
But more often than not, it’s the frontman who steals the show.
That’s never been the case with Extreme and it’s surely one of the reasons why Cherone and Bettencourt lack that crucial on-stage chemistry.
Missed fist-bumps, cursory glances, throwaway comments about breaking up again and the unrelenting adulation aimed at Nuno made for another awkward night as the Thicker Than Blood (really?) tour stopped off in the Toon.
Both band members publicly lauded one another at various points — it’s probably in the contract — but this intriguing relationship is about more than words. Always has been.
And doesn’t poor Gary know it.
You can’t fault the bloke’s enthusiasm, stagecraft and commitment to the cause — at 62-years-old Cherone can still bust some serious moves.
But for all that core strength, the vocal cords aren’t quite as powerful as they used to be.
And as a consequence, a few of the old favourites fell a little flat. Only a few.
Early doors Cherone delivered a punchy version of Decadence Dance and a rousing take on Rest In Peaceappeared to settle any pre-show nerves.
A glorious four-song medley showcasing Extreme’s 1989 debut worked a treat and the big-ticket, chart-busting ballads rolled back the years.
But Hurricane — from new album Six — was a struggle and the decision to roll out Thicker Than Blood proved misguided.
Thankfully a gutsy rendition of Get The Funk Out, closing out the main set in style, showcased this often mind-bending band at their brilliant best.
There’s that Pat Badger bass line. Cherone’s angsty vocal. And the best solo since Han.
It’s a canny play on words backed by a full-throttle Bettencourt blast that never, ever gets old.
The same can be said for Living Colour classics Cult Of Personality, Love Rears Its Ugly Head and the gregarious Glamour Boys — one of the highlights of the night.
Guitarist Vernon Reid could easily do a ‘Nuno’ and leave Corey Glover in the shade but one of rock’s most enduring frontmen was having none of it in Newcastle.
Dreadlocks flowing, pink shades occasionally propped up on the top of his head and a smile as wide as the Tyne, Living Colour’s stylish singer owned the O2 City Hall.
A band that’s as wildly inconsistent as they’re unashamedly bold don’t always meet expectations.
But this was a vintage display from the quirky New Yorkers — a groove-laden, mid-set hip hop medley briefly threatening to bring the house down.
And on the occasion of Jimi Hendrix’s birthday (the debate raged on about how old the much-missed guitarist would have been), Living Colour’s typically cool take on Crosstown Traffic was as poignant as it was classy.
Main images by Adam Kennedy