Alter Bridge & Living Colour, Forum Theatre, Melbourne - 26/2/14

Living Colour cook Melbourne. Alter Bridge simmer along, but that's the Alter Bridge way. Also: dudes.

Dudes really like Alter Bridge. Bulbous dudes of wispy hair. Work-cutting dudes with shirts tucked into slacks. Dudes man, dudes. A queue looped around the block and off into Hades. A real live conga of dudes.

So we shuffle into the Forum Theatre. Looking down from on high are Grecian figures in command and stone. From the peanut gallery, starry eyed dudes glanced gently upward at a calm canopy of azure. Ahh, how touching.

Of course, nobody came for some gat-damn fancy art party. This was all about tunes. Soul tunes. Dream all you like, Living Colour would take you by the shoulders and rattle it out of you.

Out they marched; Vernon Reid in mighty fine ivory pork pie hat, vest, tie and slacks, the inimitable Corey Glover duded out to match. Ever the party animal, he ditched the tie. Soul man Will Calhoun draped himself in white. Doug Wimbish? Well, he put on his Sunday best. This was Living Colour from New York City. The legendary metalheads born on Planet Funk. The only dudes at Soundwave blessed with backing vocals by one Michael Jagger. On their debut album. Believe it, friend.

Vernon turned it on with a whole lot of rhythm and a mean trickle of blues. Testing the strength of his seven-strings, he floated by fingerpicked soul and stung with red-hot shred. Corey Glover is a Baptist gospel choir of a man. He grunts, screams, and smoothly drapes croons over anything the boys hit him with. Desperate People’s body-fizzing groove had the few girls bouncing, their dark current of satire zooming right over heads. Vernon? Vernon makes guitar mastery look like walking your dog.

Love Rears its Ugly Head dropped ass-shakin’ bass, Go Away salivated with metal chops and you know they smashed Cult of Personality into the stratosphere. You couldn’t fit a toothpick between these guys' playing. Their Time’s Up jam swayed our shoulders and moved our feet. Doug imitated an octopus playing his bass from on top, the side and every which way. In return for the show, we gave freely our love by returning Glover’s calls on Get On Up. Like a sex machine. Get on Up. If we ever found out the number of babies Living Colour coaxed into being, it would probably blow your mind. Living Colour cooked Melbourne. I know what my favourite colour is, baby.

Alter Bridge flourishes and expires on theatre. Living Colour is Living Colour is Living Colour, unrehearsed and charismatic as they are. The band thrives in criss-crossing Scorpions lights and a fine soft mist. Myles Kennedy, forever pawing back stray shoulder-length locks, fits a mould. He’s keenly honed an arena rock sense. A voice possessed of David Lee Roth clarity and Axl Rose’s tortured snarl. Dude behind me nailed it: “He’s got a really cool voice.” Fair enough, man.

Come to Life dimly recalled a Metallica ballad drip fed crotch-thrusting Guns n’ Roses bloat. Every line is a slice cut from homespun truths. “There’s nothing we should have to fear,” Myles soars. Ghost of Days Gone By let a Cougar loose among the Mellencamp; “Yesterday is gone, and we can’t go back.” Skies are blue, ground is hard and water is wet. But when does the allure kick in?

About 11pm Myles widely drew a winning smile, confessing “You may have noticed I’ve been spraying something into my mouth…I always wanna keep myself fresh. You never know when the opportunity presents itself,” bouncing his eyebrows. Myles doubles over in laughter. “I’m such a dork.” All cheer.

That’s it. I get it. Myles is the anti-rock star. A rock star you can bring home to Mum and Dad. A rock star you easily dream of meeting, sitting down and having a beer with. Living Colour’s subversive slight returns shift your mind, your perceptions. Alter Bridge is wearing track pants on a rainy day. An hour and a half detour from working 9 to 5. They struggle pushing needles into red, but that’s fine, just fine.

After steel-belted rager Ties that Bind, Mike Tremonti took the mic. He sings a song for bikers, in the same way the Sons of Anarchy are bikers. Apropos of nothing, Myles clutches a clear curtain of the night, pulling it down around him. It proves you can’t wash clean that damned Creed spot. They leave. Stamp, clap, shout. Return. Myles and Mike trade licks in fury and battle, a contest with no real winner. An all-sweating man-hug of a love song closed out the night in minor key. A plume of smoke billowed toward the ceiling. Outside, life is waiting. To life we must return.