Extreme kicked off the UK leg of their European tour last night and HRH Mag was out in force to determine whether Gary, Nuno and co. could deliver an early Christmas present…with the Dan Reed Network in tow.
Nuno Bettencourt looked pleased as punch as he revealed Dan Reed had given him a peck on the cheek prior to Extreme’s ambitious encore. “It wasn’t a full-on kiss on the lips,” he admitted. “But it’s only the start of the tour…”
It’s the festive bromance that could keep rock and roll’s gossip columns in business until Boxing Day but Bettencourt wasn’t joking when he admitted it was a genuine ‘wow’ moment as he waited in the wings. Dan Reed Network were one of the hotshot axeman’s favourite bands as he plotted Extreme’s route to MTV stardom 30 years ago and the chance to play alongside his heroes across the UK clearly excited the Portuguese-born fret burner.
And with good reason. The opening act was on fire and those drifting through the doors after 8pm were immediately rueing the decision to leave it late. By then the Network had already breezed through 20 minutes of a truly brilliant set: a career-spanning show delighted die-hard fans and new converts alike. The a cappella finale was genuinely spine-tingling in its evocative execution.
Extreme hooked up with DRN hot on the heels of an emotive night in Paris playing to the Bataclan faithful. It was there that the band decided to play Peacemaker Die live for the first time since 1993 and the deep cut from III Sides To Every Story – 25-years-old in September – kept its place in an encore that was as puzzling as it was powerful.
Still blushing from Reed’s surprise embrace, Bettencourt returned to the stage alongside Gary Cherone to kick things off in utterly predictable fashion as More Than Words made for mass karaoke heaven. But the bizarre juxtaposition with Peacemaker Die just didn’t work.
Sure, its politically charged lyrics are as relevant now as they were a quarter of a century hence – perhaps even more so given America’s perilous position at the precipice of social meltdown – and there’s no doubt the epic arrangement allows Bettencourt to let rip. Conversely, it’s a cerebral, immersive track that fits like a glove at the end of III Sides’ first chapter (Yours) but stuck out like a particularly painful sore thumb in an encore sandwiched by Extreme’s biggest hit and a rousing cover of Queen’s We Are The Champions.
If a brave but ultimately foolhardy move backfired then it was a rare wrong turn in a set that shimmered from start to finish. Cherone has long since accepted that he plays second fiddle to Bettencourt but the singer overcame a ropey start to strike some impressive rock star poses and hit most of the relevant notes.
Forgetting the words to Play With Me – from the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure soundtrack – provided one of the night’s unexpected highlights as Bettencourt mercilessly ribbed his band mate. “First you forget the words and then you lose your mic,” he jibed. “Next thing you’ll lose your mind.” In the middle of December it was pure pantomime from a band that’s long since set aside personal differences and learnt to laugh through the tough times.
At 51 Bettencourt might be forgiven for thinking his best years were behind him. Not on this evidence. The lean, mean riff machine is a magnificent specimen and a rapid-fire rendition of Midnight Express allowed the dextrous guitarist to flex his musical muscles in a manner few peers could hope to match.
If Cupid’s Dead and Stop The World provided further evidence that III Sides… deserves a fresh reappraisal as a conceptual masterpiece then there’s simply no denying the fact that Get The Funk Out and Decadence Dance are pure funk rock party anthems that may never be bettered. Not by Extreme. Not by DRN. Not by anyone. At their best Cherone and Bettencourt were a brilliant songwriting partnership and 27 years after Pornograffitti catapulted Boston’s finest into rock and roll’s big leagues they remain a compelling partnership. Get The Funk In – while you still can.
Words: Simon Rushworth
Images: Gordon Armstrong