Back in the 80’s I spent a significant amount of time going to, as well as working, at rock clubs and had heard this new band Extreme on Fingers Metal Shop. For those not from Long Island, Fingers was bringing us music from some of the biggest as well as unknown, rock/metal bands out there; and he still does it. This was long before we had iTunes, Spotify, YouTube or even MTV; when they actually played music. Matter of fact you can check it out for yourself on WBAB Sundays 9-11 Eastern.
Extreme had an incredible, different and pretty amazing sound for the time so I was obviously interested in seeing them reproduce it live. Within a couple of months they announced a show locally, at Sundance in Bay Shore NY. Thinking back to those days it really is amazing the people/bands I met and interacted with and funny enough they asked my counterpart and I for a ride following their sound check. We only had the lighting van with no seats and Gary said something like it’s cool, if you can give us a ride, we don’t mind, we’ll sit on the floor. We chatted with them a bit, general BS with a lot of it being about other music, what they were into, we were into etc. They were extremely (no pun) nice and that show totally blew me away locking me in as a fan.
Obviously I wasn’t the only one blown away back in the 80’s; in 1990 their second album ‘Extreme II: Pornograffitti’ was released and with some help from radio and that previously mentioned music channel the album went to #10 on the Billboard 200. Pornograffitti also had four singles hit the charts with “Hole Hearted” reaching #4 and “More Than Words” making it to #1 as the album went double platinum securing Extreme a spot as a major player in the world of music.
Sure that was 25 years ago but they have been rocking on and off since. After a successful world tour in 2014 with some promises of playing Pornograffitti in its entirety the guys announced a short 25th anniversary tour which started at Mohegan Sun on January 16th and is schedule to end on January 31st in Battle Creek, MI. Of course they have other tour dates planned but currently these are the only dates slated to be a celebration of Pornograffitti.
I made sure I was lucky enough to catch The Space at Westbury show in Westbury NY this week and there is no question these guys have stood the test of time. There was no opening band and although they started a little later than advertised (even apologizing for it) once Gary Cherone (vocalist), Nuno Bettencourt (guitarist), Pat Bagdger (bassist) and Kevin Figueiredo (drummer) hit the stage they ripped right into Pornograffitti and an amazing two hours of music.
If you know the album, you know the set, or at least the first half, like Pornograffitti it kicked off with “Decadence Dance”. The high energy continued through “Li’l Jack Horny”, “When I’m President” and a crowd favorite “Get the Funk Out.” Gary Cherone truly is the ultimate front man, he’s all over the place, super theatrical, interacting with fans and how he doesn’t run out of steam is unbeknownst to me or anyone watching. After all that high energy it was time to slow it down as Nuno took center stage on a chair starting to play his acoustic as Gary walked out and the two of them as well as the 1500 cheering fans in attendance sung “More Than Words”. Nuno praised the crowds’ perfect singing and went on to say “We don’t take this for granted and we appreciate each and every one coming out to the show.”
Continuing to take the crowd on a Journey through the album they played “Money (In God We Trust)”, another favorite “It’s a Monster” and the title track “Pornograffitti” before slowing it down for one of the shows many highlights. Gary thanked the crowd for coming out to celebrate the anniversary and mentioned the next song was one they rarely play and that Nuno had to work on it before the tour. The stage was temporarily transformed into what felt like a blues club as Nuno sat behind the keys of a piano, the stage got smoky, Kevin brushed across the snare drum, Pat played a stand-up electric bass and Gary sang “When I First Kissed You” wearing a top hat. In a matter of moments they had changed the entire vibe of the room, the crowd was swaying in unison and everyone including myself loved it. Shifting once again, back to rock mode they played “Suzy (Wants Her All Day Sucker)” and then right into “He-Man Woman Hater.”
For many the show highlight was NOW! If you know Extreme you know who Nuno Bettencourt is and if you are anyone who has ever picked up a guitar you definitely know who Nuno Bettencourt is! He’s what some would call a guitar god and not many people, even those that aren’t Extreme fans, would argue this fact. Throughout any Extreme show he is impressive but when he played his solo “Flight of the Wounded Bumble Bee” it was beyond extraordinary in regards to the speed, precision and what seems like ease; a definite highlight for anyone to witness. Introducing “The Song for Love” saying to the crowd “This song is for you, It has always been for you” everyone was once again in full sing-a-long mode as they swayed their hands side to side in the air.
As “The Song for Love” was winding down Nuno pulled out a personal highlight for me. I was getting a drink at the bar and as a lifelong Rush fan you know when you hear some Rush. There Nuno stood in a spotlight playing the intro to “Xanadu” then telling the crowd to “Wake up” as the lights came up and they closed out Pornograffitti with the final album track “Hole Hearted” which included an outro jam of Queens “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” followed by them exiting the stage to the deafening crowd.
Of course every concert goer knows the show isn’t over until the encore and although they had finished out Pornograffitti this was far from done. Within minutes they were back with Pat channeling Joe Walsh by wearing a helmet cam as he tried to capture all the actions, as they played “Play With Me” from their first album as well as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. They quickly followed that up with “Rest in Peace” and “Am I Ever Gonna Change” from their third album before Nuno took to his acoustic for and incredible version of “Midnight Express” from “Waiting for the Punchline.” Sending out “Kid Ego” to the old school fans Gary killed it as he always has and closed out the show with “Take us Alive” and “Cupid’s Dead.”
The band thanked the crowd profusely as they were going crazy and Nuno took photos from the stage. As if they didn’t give the crowd enough with an incredible show the band all came down into the photo pit and started shaking hand, taking pictures, high fiving, signing things and handing out whatever they had left (sticks & picks). They even got up on the barricades and cabinets on the sides to reach more people. There is no question that their diehard fan base has kept them going as long as they have and they obviously appreciate that.
Over the years I have seen Extreme many times and had some other interactions with them but I honestly would have never thought that 27 years later I’d still be a fan seeing them play live just 25 minutes from that original venue.
I see a lot of bands and understand that I am lucky to get to see as many shows as I do. I also understand that people’s time and money are limited but if you like Extreme, you love a high energy rock show or you just haven’t seen them then you need to check them out because I promise you, YOU WILL LOVE THEM!
Yes the Pornograffitti 25th Anniversary shows that are scheduled are nearly over but Extreme have other tour dates so for more information follow Extreme on their official website and Facebook. While you’re at it don’t forget to follow ZTPMAG
And if you want to turn your love of 80’s/90’s rock into a vacation then check out Extreme and some other favorites of that era; Night Ranger, Tesla, Queensryche, Y&T, and so many others on The Monsters of Rock Cruise in April. I’ve worked on this cruise before and if you’re a music fan you will be on full overload. If you make it on that boat also make sure to check out one of my favorite bands in the last few year “The Winery Dogs” they will blow you away.
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