Words and Photos by Robert Cavuoto
The boys from Boston hit the stage with a sense of fury and purpose opening with “It’s a Monster” and dove directly into a smoldering version of “Li’l Jack Horny.” Gary Cherone [vocals], Nuno Bettencourt [guitar], Pat Badger [bass], and Kevin Figueiredo [drums] were in touch with their audience’s desire to hear their hit songs while giving the New Jersey crowd a solid dose of some fierce guitar playing.
It just goes to show in this day and age you don’t need pyro, monster video screens, smoke, and extravagant set designs to put on one of the best rock shows. All that is required is great songs and incredible performers, case in point; Extreme.
The band crammed as many great songs into their 90-minute set as possible tonight from the bluesy “Take Us Alive” to the soulful “Stop the World” to the rocking “Decadence Dance,” “Get the Funk Out,” and “Play with Me.” The night would not be complete without “Hole Hearted” and “More than Words” with Nuno on acoustic and Gary singing. During the performance of it, you could have heard a pin drop.
I had the opportunity to ask Gary about how “More Than Words” impacted the band’s career? He said, “We were nine months into Pornograffitti and put out a couple of videos on MTV and playing clubs with no real traction. Suddenly a radio station in Philadelphia started playing “More than Words.” It then started to get played across the country. The song became bigger than the band. The next thing we are on tour for the next year and a half opening for Bon Jovi and ZZ Top. In a way, we were just trying to ride the wave. Of course, that’s the good; the bad was that we followed it up with “Hole Hearted.” There was a misconception with people regarding what this band Extreme was all about. Was it an acoustic band? Two acoustic tracks and here we are with a record called Pornograffitti, so there was a little confusion. At the end of the day, that success gave us the liberty to do what we wanted to do on the third CD. No holds barred.”
Gary is the one of the best singers and frontman hands down. He had energy abound and fluid stage moves reminiscent of Freddie Mercury. Successfully owning the stage and drum riser; he kept the crowd engaged as he tireless strutted the stage with an air of confidence always moving some part of his body to the music. In an era when bands are using backing vocal tracks to supplement the live show Gary, Nuno, and Pat were “all hand on deck” and in perfect vocal form as they sang their hearts out song-after-song. Songs like “Cupid Dead” and the rarely played “Tragic Comic” featured some of Gary’s most impressive vocals of the night.
Having one of rock’s most influential guitarists, Nuno Bettencourt provided the icing on the proverbial cake that brought the live show to a new level. Nuno has his own undeniable style of playing and songwriting that marries melodic riffs with catchy choruses. Combine that with some tasteful vibrato during the leads, and the songs are enhanced beyond expectation. It was awe-inspiring to watch him combine his signature techniques of speed, dexterity, melody, and reach into a pyrotechnic display of guitar playing on two of his most two famous instrumentals “Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee” and “Midnight Express.”
Pat and Kevin put an unflinching “beat down” on all the tunes allowing Nuno to soar. Pat’s voice on the backing vocals and harmonies brought all of Extreme’s songs to life just like on the records.
Starland Ballroom was loud; Extreme sounded amazing and gave an outstanding performance of a lifetime. It was a testament to the strength of this veteran hard rock quartet’s love for their fans that packed the venue and the dynamic musicianship. Let’s hope for a new CD, tour, and that they market whatever age-defying vitamins they are taking!