In 1989, the rock group Living Colour came to Syracuse University to open for the Rolling Stones at the Carrier Dome. At the time, Boeheim's squad ranked in the top ten nationally, a democrat ran city hall, CNY had enjoyed a relatively mild winter and Carousel Mall was under construction (it was being built). So when Living Colour front man Corey Glover returned to the Salt City last night, he may have been eerily reminded of the past. After all, some things never change.
Tuesday night, Glover undertook vocal duties for Galactic (a band that didn't exist in 1989) at the Westcott Theater (which was still showing movies in 1989). The 47-year-old singer has been touring with the New Orleans funk group on and off for nearly two years while also working on a new album with Living Colour.
During Glover's first visit, Living Colour had just won a Grammy for best new artist. Their debut album, "Vivid," peaked at number six on the Billboard Top 200 chart. They were touring with one of rock's greatest bands at Syracuse's largest venue. In short: they were one of the hottest new bands on the planet. Their place in music history is, no doubt, secure. But the "what have you done for me lately" attitude of the music industry kept the band on the sidelines until somewhat recently.
Now, like the Rolling Stones, Living Colour is doing its best to remain relevant as middle age creeps in. After breaking up in 1995, the group reunited in 2000 but didn't drop its latest studio album, "The Chair in the Doorway," until 2009. The album received some fanfare and snuck its way onto the Billboard charts at #159. Glover's career, however, received an additional shot in the arm it needed when he teamed up with Galactic in 2010.
The jazz-funk of the New Orleans horn band proved a perfect fit for the eccentric Glover. His age was hardly evident last night at the Westcott as he jumped around the stage, climbed speakers and wailed soaring, soulful vocals over the ensemble of Robert Mercurio, Jeffrey Raines, Richard Vogel, Ben Ellman and Stanton Moore. Galactic began touring 18 years ago, yet still packs theaters with droves of teenagers and twenty-somethings (as well as a solid contingent of working stiffs and gray-hairs). And Glover is proving that he can still hang with the kids and entertain an audience half his age.
For some reason, improvisational groups like Galactic seem resistant to the perils of aging. While punk, hip hop and pop artists tend to fade away as time passes, funk groups and jam bands have an unlimited shelf life. George Clinton still tours the country and the Grateful Dead survived the death of Jerry Garcia and are in their 6th decade of making music together (currently touring as "Furthur"). Perhaps this is because live improv music, unlike many genres, isn't heavily reliant on the artist's image. It's all about the sound. No one is going to see a 50-year-old Bieber or a Chris Brown who can't dance. But people will fill music halls to watch a 70-year-old George Clinton waddle around the stage and jam. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. The Beastie Boys are still railing against the man 30 years later and Madonna continues to defy the odds and produce hit songs. It's hard to believe, however, that today's icons (Rihanna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj) will still be filling stadiums and charting in decades to come.
Glover's performance last night is proof that talent supercedes image in certain worlds. Upwards of 700 people packed into the nearly-sold-out venue to see a singer who would be deemed "washed up" in many circles. Rather than phone it in like Madonna at the 50 yard line, however, he tore the place down. Glover seemed intent on proving he hadn't missed a beat since warming up the crowd for Jagger & Co. nearly 25 years ago.
Glover's limelight may have faded and the Dome has downgraded from British rock legends to Rick Ross, but history has a way of repeating itself. The Stones are still touring, SU basketball is still crushing the competition and Corey Glover continues to rock.
Otto-Tune is a music blog dedicated to exposing the best in local, national and international music to the Syracuse community.