January 29, 2015 Extreme celebrate 25 years of Pornograffiti The Space at Westbury, NY 1-24-15
August 7, 1989: fans were standing behind L’amour in Brooklyn, New York with cassettes in hand outside the tour bus of an new exciting band named Extreme. This band had a unique style which combined Hard Rock and Funk, great harmonies, a killer guitar player, and a theatrical frontman with incredible energy and a gritty, soulful voice. Soon Extreme would leave that back alley of New York City and go onto Rock super-stardom that would span over twenty-six years.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of their sophomore double platinum album Pornograffitti, Extreme started heavy touring overseas in 2014, vowing to perform the record in its entirety. Now bringing the tour home to North America in 2015, the band began a string of dates on January 16th at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut and ended on January 31st in Battle Creek, Missouri . The village of Westbury, New York was among the stops along the way, and on Saturday the 24th fans braved the snow and ice covered grounds surrounding The Space at Westbury. Born the Westbury Theater in 1927, this magnificent structure was saved from demolition eight years ago and now features state-of-the-art sound and lighting. The decor is charming with large bulbs of light suspended from the ceiling using old-fashioned steel pulleys creating soothing lighting around the lounge, while antique film reels, canisters, and projectors provide a touch of nostalgia as concertgoers enter the theater. Once inside, one cannot help but look up at the 40 foot high ceilings with exposed duct work and eight giant chandeliers. The decor is a brilliant mix of old time meeting-place and cutting-edge concert venue.
Fans waited for the show to begin, and at approximately 8:30 PM the background music gave way to the piano and thunderstorm intro to Pornograffitti. Vocalist Gary Cherone, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, bassist Pat Bagdger, and newer drummer Kevin Figueiredo surged onto the stage and blasted into “Decadence Dance.” Bettencourt ripped through the intro, immediately giving everyone a taste of what they had come to see. Wearing a t-shirt, jeans and denim vest, his long, straight, jet black hair distinguishes him as female fan favorite. Cherone, also a heart throb, extended the mic stand over the crowd, letting them know that he expected participation. Wearing a leather vest and sport coat, a scarf, and sunglasses, Cherone is a frontman through and through, known for his stage theatrics and boundless energy. Badger, a founding member who rejoined the group in 2007, took his place on the stage as the anchor for the band as his long blond curls obscured his leather jacket. Figueiredo, who has been a member of the band since they reunited in 2007, was engaging from behind the drum set, sporting a ‘fro-tee’ and a t-shirt that simply read “Guilty,” while he was in the pocket and grooving hard all night. Next on the list were “L’il Jack Horny,” and “When I’m President” where Bettencourt and Badger added tight, spot-on backing vocals while Cherone acted out the lyrics, saluting the audience and marching around the stage. Cherone had the whole room clapping for hit “Get the Funk Out” before the band stopped playing and surrounded kFigg (Kevin Figueiredo) as he broke it down, the crowd singing along.
At this point in the show the lights went out and the spotlight was on Bettencourt sitting in a chair. Joined by Cherone, they began “More than Words” to a huge ovation. Over a thousand people sang along, often by themselves as the band watched, obviously pleased with the effort. Bettencourt praised them saying, “You don’t need us; that was perfect!” He went on to say, “We don’t take this for granted. We appreciate each and every one coming out to the show. We are going to attempt to play Pornograffitti in its entirety.” Staying true to that statement they went into “Money (In God We Trust)” where Cherone fell to his knees reciting the Lord’s Prayer, looking to the heavens. “It’s a Monster” and “Pornograffitti” followed and had everyone bouncing up and down.
Things slowed down as Cherone once again took a break to talk to the crowd saying, ‘Thank you all for coming out to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pornograffitti,” to which someone in the crowd responded, “25 more!” Cherone laughed and introduced the next song by saying, “We rarely do this song live, it’s one of the few times you will see Nuno without his guitar. We worked on this song just for this tour.” He pointed to Bettencourt sitting behind an upright piano as he began to play “When I First Kissed You.” As the lights came up the audience took notice that Badger was playing an electric upright bass and Figueiredo was swirling brushes across his snare drum. The stage was bathed in smokey, blue light and had the feel of an old Jazz club as Cherone began to croon. The crowd swayed back and forth mesmerized by the sudden shift.
Next up Extreme played “Suzy (Wants Her All Day Sucker)” before treating fans to Bettencourt’s solo piece”Flight of the Wounded Bumble Bee.” An impossibly fast click track began to play as Bettencourt let loose a barrage of notes with pinpoint precision and blazing speed. He was at his blistering best during this intro to “He-Man Woman Hater.” He then introduced “Song for Love” and said to all, “This song is for you. It has always been for you.” The song was also dedicated to a couple who had the band autograph their wedding invitation, according to Cherone. They performed the song to an enthusiastic crowd waving their hands back and forth in unison. Again, the crowd took over vocal duties as kFigg led them with his drums.
As the lights went down save for one spotlight on Bettencourt, he began to play the introduction to the Rush song “Xanadu.” At this point Bettencourt told the crowd to wake up as the entire band appeared again on stage. Figueiredo, standing up, tambourine in hand, joining the rest of the band up front for the final song on Pornograffitti, “Hole Hearted.” This time it was Bettencourt who was calling on the crowd to participate while playing a beautiful white acoustic guitar with a blood red heart around the sound hole. The band took advantage of this configuration to do a quick rendition of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” as a nod to one of the band’s biggest influences. It was at this time the band left the stage to a thunderous ovation.
It was not long before the band responded to the cheers of the crowd and an encore began with a Figueiredo drum solo accompanied by Bettencourt to the tune of “Good Times, Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin. The drum solo immediately gave way to “Play With Me” from their 1989 self-titled debut, with Badger wearing a helmet cam, trying to catch everything on video. Next up was “Rest in Peace” and ” Am I Ever Gonna Change” from 1992’s III Sides to Every Story. Bettencourt said, “Sometimes you get lost in the song, and the music. It’s an amazing feeling.” He took the spotlight again playing the 1995 acoustic piece from Waiting for the Punchline titled “Midnight Express.” It was then that Cherone sent the next song out to the old school fans from 1989 as they broke into “Kid Ego” before wrapping up the night with Saudades de Rock 2008 track “Take us Alive.” After once again expressing thanks to the fans, cast, and crew, Bettencourt took photos of the crowd on his phone to share with the rest of the world.
Extreme put on an amazing show with plenty of stand out moments. Best of all was after the show when they nearly jumped into the crowd shaking hands and handing out high fives to as many fans as they could reach before disappearing from the stage for the last time. Extreme is a hard rock hit machine. For nearly three decades they have successfully combined hard-edged Funk Rock with an energetic and fun stage show. Their longevity can also be attributed to their dedication to their extremely loyal fan base as evidenced by the time they take with each fan whenever they get to meet one. In fact, as a testament to proving that fame has not changed them, even all these years after first reaching fame, Extreme was seen signing autographs and taking pictures with fans outside of the tour bus after the show.Photo credit: Mark Schoen Photography