We all have our favorite bands, but the greatness of each isn’t fact. It’s merely our opinion. Acts cherished by one generation may be considered repellent to another. Albums remembered as vital to one decade’s teenagers could be easily dismissed a decade later.
Take one Canalside comment from last week. While announcing the rest of the season’s concert schedule, Star 102.5 deejay and evening emcee Roger Christian referred to early ’90s metal act Extreme as, “one of the greatest rock bands of all time.”
Is this fact or opinion? Critics, Van Halen fans and rational responders would say opinion.
But after the Mr. Christian-approved outfit used Thursday night’s riverfront stage for a guitar-heavy set of hairy rockers, radio hits and post-grunge favorites, the on-air personality could at least find a few local Extreme fans to back his assertion.
The Boston-bred quartet arrived in Buffalo near the end of a four-month world tour spent playing its 1990 “Pornograffitti” album from start to finish.
The multi-platinum effort not only introduced vocalist Gary Cherone, bassist Pat Badger, drummer Paul Geary and virtuoso guitarist Nuno Bettencourt to the rock-metal populace outside New England – with acoustic single “More Than Words,” it introduced them to anyone with a radio dial and tear ducts. The minimalist ballad was a drastic departure from most of the album’s schizophrenic mix of metal, funk and songs about Gary Cherone becoming president (on “When I’m President”), but it topped the Billboard 100 chart – and appeared on countless mix-tapes made between 1990 and 1992.
Since its heyday, the band has followed a similar path to others sharing its genre. The band broke up and watched a member (Cherone) unsuccessfully join Van Halen (1996); reunited for a series of hometown gigs (2004); then regrouped for good (2008). Now feasting off the ever-growing metal nostalgia tour scene – which has booked the group on next year’s Tesla-headlined “Monsters of Rock” Bahamas cruise – Extreme is returning its fans to the past. Thursday night’s Canalside set was for this crowd, eager to be transported back via Cherone’s timeless shriek.
Though aged and no longer at his peak level of vocal range, the shaggy Cherone can still belt out lyrics about love, money and ladies.
Appearing for opener “Decadence Dance,” the svelte, leather-clad frontman slithered from one stage spot to another as drummer Kevin Figueiredo (added in 2007) pounded out a pulsating beat.
Despite the night’s smaller crowd and, at times, unenthusiastic response to anonymous tunes like “Money (In God We Trust),” Cherone was always moving and trying to engage. And when he couldn’t sell with his showmanship, he offered up the Fender revelation that is Nuno Bettencourt.
Arguably one of the more underrated rock guitarists of the past 30 years, Bettencourt dazzled as a poor man’s Eddie Van Halen, creating with the aforementioned finger-tap style before steering elsewhere on the fly on “Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?),” encore opener “Play With Me” and his mouth-agape guitar clinic on “He-Man Woman Hater.”
But regardless of Cherone’s pipes or Nuno Bettencourt’s six-string mastery, many in the crowd came to hear two songs: “More Than Words” and fellow top-10 smash, “Hole Hearted.” Both were the night’s highlight, with the duo mounting barstools and inciting a sing-along for the first, and Bettencourt breaking out a 12-string acoustic for a thumping version of the second. Not a bad slice of ‘90s nostalgia – but that’s just my opinion.
Opening for Extreme was the Pittsburgh-based Truth. Led by keyboardist Ayesha Scott and vocalist/guitarist Paul Benson (son of Sabres Chief Development Officer Cliff Benson), the four-piece bounced among barroom pop, Zeppelin covers and metal licks.
Thursday evening at Canalside