Extreme in Concert at the Emerald Theatre Review - A Hole Hearted Return

Thus far, the opening decade of this new millennium has revealed itself to music devotees as the era of reunion acts. Though some ‘regroup’ for a fleeting glimpse of what once was, others continue on as stronger and more mature entities. Whether it be the former or the latter, the Boston-based rockers Extreme are back.

With their recent release Saudades de Rock (pronounced "sow-dodge") original vocalist Gary Cherone, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and bassist Pat Badger along with new drummer Kevin Figueiredo, return from a thirteen-year absence of creating new material. The band, recognized mainly for their 1991 #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit "More Than Words", disbanded in 1996 and re-emerged briefly in 2004 and 2006.

With Bettencourt producing and mixing it himself, Saudades de Rock is said to be a return to true rock & roll. The Portuguese ‘saudade’, is a feeling of nostalgic longing or yearning for something that one was fond of and which is now lost. This visibly true in a directionless music industry which has all but permanently expunged this genre from radio waves all over North America and beyond. However, the groove-thick guitar riffs alongside heavy metal/funk drum styles delivers a ‘hole hearted’ look into this misplaced art.

The "Take Us Alive World Tour" brought Extreme to the fabulous Emerald Theatre in Mount Clemens, Michigan on August 8. With openers King’s X in toe the anticipation of the band’s return was evident. Without an often distracting stage show laden with pyrotechnics, the raw and raunchy wall of sound instantly brought fans to their feet. From the moment the first power chord was hit, one could feel the intensity which the remainder of the show was about to deliver.

Both Cherone and Bettencourt controlled the stage with musical brilliance combined with energetic fit physiques which were no strangers to well choreographed acrobatics. It was fascinating to see a band deliver with such conviction a true unblemished rock performance. With a well-balanced set list of music both old and new, fans were shaking their fists to whatever the quartet delivered. The content almost didn’t seem to matter. It was the band’s passion and sincerity which truly leaked through it all.

Of course, music being the catalyst for the evening Extreme pulled out all their artillery spanning the 5-album repertoire. From the heavy groove influenced "Get the Funk Out" and "Cupid’s Dead" to the mid-tempo "Hole Hearted", fans echoed back the familiar choruses.

With Cherone the ever-dramatic and often theatrical front man, mention should not go unrecognized to the absolute brilliance of Bettencourt’s mastery of the guitar. As almost an extension of his own body he displayed virtuosity on both electric and acoustic guitars with the instrumentals "Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee" and "Midnight Express" respectfully.

With the intimate "More Than Words" an obvious highlight of the evening many were still drawn by lesser known yet recognizable hits such as "Rest in Peace" and "Kid Ego".

The tour is now in full U.S. swing and Extreme will begin their second leg overseas mid September hitting Italy, the UK, Japan and South Korea. With their longevity an ever-present speculation, especially under the ‘reunion‘ umbrella, there still remains an unquestionable army of true classic music fans optimistic for the return of rock & roll. May it never "Rest in Peace"!

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