Boston’s own Extreme is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of their most successful album to date, Pornograffitti. The band earned their first number one single with the monster ballad “More Than Words” alongside other hits as “Hole Hearted” and “Get the Funk Out”. Extreme is not known for embracing nostalgia, but they recognized their diehard fans’ passion for the album’s importance and have chosen to perform the album in its entirety and in order during the first half of their shows while on tour in 2014 and now 2015. Performing for a hometown crowd, which included a great number of family members and friends at the sold out House of Blues – took on a whole new meaning.
Inside the venue, there was a palpable buzz of anticipation as everyone waited for the band to take the stage. Fifteen minutes past the scheduled start time, the lights dimmed and the audience roared with excitement as the show started with Pornograffitti’s pre-recorded piano, thunder and rain sound effects intro of the band’s second album. But, it only lasted for about one minute, as the show was suddenly halted to a dead stop by the emergency fire alarm system and everyone was asked to step outside onto the street by security. “Smoke Signals”, with its chorus of “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” from Extreme’s eponymous debut album might have been a more appropriate song choice for the moment. Extreme’s fans spent about thirty minutes outside chatting and wondering what had happened while the Boston Fire Department swept the building before allowing everyone back inside.
Once the venue was filled with the somewhat confused, but no less ecstatic crowd, the lights dimmed once again and the token intro commenced once again. Nuno Bettencourt’s signature Washburn electric guitar produced the first genuine musical notes as he stepped onto the stage alongside his stacks of custom amplifiers. Drummer, Kevin Figueiredo stepped up onto his drum riser and settled in behind his kit. Bassist Pat Badger slipped into view as lead vocalist Gary Cherone dodged the flickering lights and slinked his way onto the front of the Figueiredo’s riser with his back turned to the audience while silhouetted in front of tranquil blue lights.
Those blue lights disappeared and the band was hit with proper white spotlights. Cherone, Badger, Figueiredo and Bettencourt took charge with guns blazing for the diesel-fueled opener, “Decadence Dance”. Bassist Pat Badger took a few lines during one of the verses, much to the delight of the crowd. Other highlights of the first half of the set included the fan favorite “Get the Funk Out”, with its incredibly catchy chorus that had everyone singing along word for word. Of course, any Extreme set would be incomplete without performing “More Than Words”. Cherone and Bettencourt held court together as they led the masses through the hit, as everyone in the venue sang with them in unison. Cherone and Bettencourt appeared to be sincerely moved by the audience participation and grateful for their support.
Bettencourt strapped on his trademark guitar once again and joked with the band and the audience about forgetting what song came next. A click track popped up through the monitors and Nuno dazzled the crowd with his take on a 19th century Rimsky-Korsakov orchestral interlude, in which Bettencourt titled “Flight Of The Wounded Bumble Bee” a play on the original “Flight Of The Bumble Bee”. Even though Bettencourt mimes a sarcastic yawn as he plays through parts of the selection with only his left hand, he still performs it and injects the same sting felt twenty-five years ago – leaving many aspiring and seasoned guitarists’ jaws hitting the floor. Immediately following the solo, the band kicked into the sucker-punching “He Man Woman Hater”.
Cherone found an opening to allude to the unexpected evacuation by spouting, “They told us to leave too. But I said no way. You know we could’ve died. It’s too fucking cold out there.” Roadies moved a stand-up drum kit out to the front of the stage for as Bettencourt donned an ornate acoustic guitar for another one of their acoustic hits, “Hole Hearted”. Extreme added a nice touch to the final song of the Porno portion of the set, by adding a few refrains of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” in between the verses – one of many nods to the band’s major influences, Queen and more specifically Freddie Mercury.
The band served up several more killer performances for the second half of the night’s set. Figueiredo and Bettencourt got the ball rolling with a little back and forth riffing, Figueiredo’s sonic pounding rolls and fills conjured up sound of the late John Bonham and Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times”. Though it was just a tease, the riffing gradually morphed into the high-octane “Play With Me” which provided an opportunity for Cherone to prove he still has the same vocal stamina he had decades ago. Of course, the song also gave Bettencourt the spotlight to shred for the song’s blistering solo. After the Hendrix-infused “Rest In Peace”, Cherone noted that the next song was, “From the Boston’s South End.” Nuno then asked the sound engineer to help clean up his sound a bit before he and the band galloped through the Country Western influenced “Take Us Alive” – filled with chicken-pickin’ and double stops. Cherone seamlessly slipped in a little “That’s All Right” which was a hit for Elvis Presley before returning to the conclusion of “Alive”.
Bettencourt took a few minutes to express his appreciation for the band’s fans and support before sharing the spotlight with his sister who was several feet away. He explained that the night was special, for many reasons – playing back at home in Boston, it being the anniversary of his mother’s passing as well as his sister’s birthday. For which, he imposed himself upon the audience by asking them to help sing “Happy Birthday”. The audience happily obliged. Nuno was then left alone in a soft spotlight as he began the delay-laden intro to the epic “Am I Ever Gonna Change”.
Later in the set, the ever-sarcastic Bettencourt joked, “You know we get paid by the note. So, we’re going to keep playing. We’ve got bills to pay.” Figueiredo led the attack on his kit for the rollicking “Cupid’s Dead”, with Cherone chiming in with, “Sounds good Kevin.” Before the last song, Bettencourt took to the mic one last time to ask, “The show’s over right?” and then proceeded with a few expletives. Cherone confirmed with the crowd that, “This is Boston. This is where it all started for us. We’re not done. We’re going to play a deep track – one that we used to play when we were first playing in the clubs.” Deep track? You bet. They pulled out a loose rendition of the carnal focused “Flesh & Blood”. It was met with immense approval.
After the quarter hour wait and the bizarre evacuation onto Lansdowne Street, Extreme delivered an impressive set, filled with hits, deep cuts and a couple of sneaky cover songs. Don’t rule this band out – they’re still working hard, writing and recording and they’re not going away. Catch their live show if you can, you won’t leave disappointed.
All photos by Marc Lacatell