Driving home tonight, I listened to a song I haven’t heard in a while: Cult of Personality by Living Colour. It features one of the Greatest Rock Riffs of All Time and it always manages to pump me up.
The song reminds me of a lot of things, but mostly I think about how I once saw Living Colour, Guns N Roses, and the Rolling Stones at the L.A. Coliseum. The concert started in the late afternoon, with Living Colour playing to a half-empty stadium. I remember being mad that more people weren’t there to appreciate the band’s virtuosity, especially Vernon Reid blazing away on the guitar. Of the three bands that day, Living Colour was by far the most technically proficient.
But who rocked the hardest? The Rolling Stones, without a doubt. I was surprised that a bunch of geezers (I thought they were old then, not knowing that 20 more years of farewell tours still lay ahead) would totally own the Coliseum. I felt that Guns N Roses would steal the show that night, given that they were the hometown boys who made it big.
To put it mildly, Guns N Roses sucked. There wasn’t much energy in the band and I wasn’t the only one there that thought they were just going through the motions. Years later, their lackadaisical performance that evening was explained on an episode of Behind the Music: they were going through a period of heavy drinking and drug use and would soon break up.
It’s a shame that Guns N Roses didn’t complete the trifecta of a brilliant night of rock music. Between the Stones and Living Colour, though, there were moments that will last my lifetime, whether it was Eric Clapton joining the Stones for a song or Vernon Reid launching into one of the Greatest Rock Riffs of All Time.