Booing certainly isn’t the planned walk-on for Extreme. A delayed soundcheck holds the doors before the band finally take the stage an hour later than advertised, and it takes several songs to even out the front of house mix and bring the vocals to a proper level. Repeated apologies are made throughout the set, but the wait is well worth it in the end.
Just four days prior to the release of a deluxe edition of Extreme II: Pornograffitti, this first in a brief run of dates to commemorate its twenty-fifth anniversary dusts off the album and reaffirms its importance in establishing Extreme as more than just a Van Halen knockoff. The onstage posturing reveals singer Gary Cherone and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt still nicking a page or two from the Aerosmith playbook, but all of Pornograffitti, performed in its original running order, celebrates the individuality of the album, and the band, both then and now.
The funk overtone that separated Extreme from the glut of ‘80s MTV pop metal is front and center, with bassist Pat Badger giving the bottom end a thumping that can be physically felt through the arena PA — not bad for a pasty-faced white boy, as Get The Funk Out proves. An admitted Queen influence is also in play, with More Than Words showing how well songwriters Bettencourt and Cherone understand the dynamics of songs such as Love Of My Life and You Take My Breath Away. A chorus of Crazy Little Thing Called Love is a bonus added to Hole Hearted.
There’s some serious musicianship on show. It’s a real juggernaut whenever Bettencourt, Badger, and drummer Kevin Figueiredo turn up the octane, especially during Cupid’s Dead in the post-Pornograffitti part of the set. Badger and Figueiredo really assert their importance as a rhythm section that can both establish groove and fly off the handle. But the real show stopper is singing in tracks like Money: three-part harmony pulled off with robust precision by live voices in a world where digital accompaniment is commonplace.
As much as the Pornograffitti running order works as an album, Bettencourt admits “you would never play these songs in this order live” when launching into the Flight Of The Wounded Bumblebee intro to He-Man Woman Hater. The transition between songs doesn’t feel too awkward, although the memorable crooning of When I First Kissed You sadly falls short of the adorable recorded version outside the intimacy of a piano lounge.
There are a couple gaffes, like the clunk of Cherone dropping the mic during Pornograffitti, and Bettencourt berating the lighting director for not immediately spotlighting him at the piano, but it’s never enough to sour the overall impact of the show. The response from the audience — loudly singing along with songs that weren’t ever singles — seems to not only forgive the late start, but also confirm a continued appreciation of both the album and the band.