Live | Extreme (& The Last Internationale) – Trix – Antwerp (BE)
13 December 2023
Chilly but not freezing, is what the queue outside of Antwerp Trix venue experienced. Belated opening leads to a line stretching over 300 meters around the corner of the sold-out venue. Programmed this evening is US funk metal band Extreme, who’s new album `Six’ not only put them back on the map with the masses, it also claimed their rightful position at the metal firmament. `Six’ carved the band’s trademark sound in the realms of modern metal, rejuvenating their status and career.
Idolized by the masses for their 90s rock ballad ,,More than Words”, the band was overlooked for its tedious and frantic dosed funky metal by a lot of metalheads. Here to set the record straight, this evening Extreme will put their mark on metal with an extravagant performance featuring the heaviness of metal and the brisk danceable beats and swing that balances the band’s tremendous interplay and swagger.
THE LAST INTERNATIONALE
Opening the evening are New York hard rockers The Last Internationale. Missed by half the audience stuck queued outside, the band around the bluesy and soulful vocals of Delila Paz and her guitar slinging counterpart Edgey Pires ensured a warmed-up crowd for the evening. Their potion of bluesy hard rock is strongly rooted in the roaring 70s and is built upon heavy grooves and raining distorted guitars that bring loud riffs to the front. The addition of modern keyboards and synth beats match the social critical content of their lyrics, adding the right dose of discord.
The element of surprise is Paz with her provoking stage performance. Dancing and hip-swinging, she captures the audience’s attention. Her vocal range is gritty and soulful, gelling well with Pires’ guitar escapades. He swings his Gibson up in the air and dances over the stage, unleashing a chordal strut full of swagger. The band works their way through a solid performance of only 6 songs of which ,,Killing Fields”, ,,1984” and ,,Wanted Man” land well with the enthusiastic crowd.
When Paz unstraps her bass and relays on her stage presence only, she wins the hearts of many. Sliding in between the front-stage barriers to interact with the audience, she belts out warming vocals, dancing and swinging her way through. The energy is tremendous and The Last Internationale certainly gained fans.
No matter how much impact their support act made, Extreme is here to take no prisoners tonight. The band pumps into a heavy bliss with the funky offload of ,,It (‘s a Monster)” and ,,Decadence Dance” before unleashing the first new track of this evening. ,,#Rebel” fits the profile of their extravagant funky discharge while it also bridges other territory. With Nuno shredding it up on his signature 4N Washburn, who picked up his Sena Performers European Guitar Award in The Netherlands one day before, it is obvious we are in for a treat. His bedazzling style and fretboard exercises renowned, the man’s stage presence is as ever dismantling and humble. He swings his axe, kicking air, unloading a tremendous number of notes. All in harmony with the music, his playing is extravagant as it is enchanting. During the solo he marks his territory with the crowd’s musicians flabbergasted.
But it is the all over performance that speaks volumes. The band is on fire and owns Trix. Pat Badger takes his bass to all outskirts of the stage laying down a funky bases together with drummer Kevin Figueiredo, guarding the swing and groove of the show. The interaction is phenomenal and when the Badger and Nuno double down on the vocal harmonies, they hardly need the running backing effects to smoothen up the choirs. The clinical backing, whether on tracks or multiplied in the front hall mix, is the only flaw and is an unnecessary addition to the band’s magical performance.
Magic that is also created by Gary Cherone’s dominant stage presence. Standing on the drum riser with wild gestures, he entertains the crowd. Jumping front to back, striking poses, he is in charge this evening. His vocals are top notch and his register doesn’t suffer from aging, as he works his way through the high demand of the band’s catalogue, dancing and running like in his prime.
He is a born entertainer adding the right poise to the song’s and to his bandmates’ performances. Interacting constantly with his comrades and spectators, Gary displays his skills, like on the demanding ,,Rest in Peace” and ,,Other Side of the Rainbow”. He belts it with persona, sharing the spotlight with Nuno Bettencourt for laurels.
Especially fun is the band’s mash-up of classics ,,Teacher’s Pet” – ,,Flesh ‘n Blood” – ,,Wind Me Up” and ,,Kid Ego” from their debut, on which Nuno shines with his Van Halen-escapades during the solos. It is remarkable to see him bending the strings of his 4N, and his rapid firing fretboard wizardry. The audience cheers him on for more, which is found in ,,Play with Me” stylish opened by Queen’s ,,We will Rock You”, raising the roof. It is a mash-up the band uses more frequently during the evening.
The heavily funked up version of ,,Cupid’s Dead” features bits and pieces of James Brown’s ,,Get Up” and the wonderful ,,Banshee” is fused onto Queen’s ,,Fat Bottomed Girls”. It all works perfectly and certainly finds resonance in the audience. With the band singing along word by word most of the band’s song, it is hard to imagine it can be outdone when Extreme delves into their hits ,,Hole Hearted” and (later) ,,More than Words”, with Cherone displaying his great range and feeling. He flexes his voice around the vocal lines and chorus, with slightly adjusted phrasing, adding depth.
For me however it is album `Six’ that is the real treat of the evening. Songs like ,,Thicker than Blood”, ,,Hurricane”, the video single ,,Banshee”, and the previously mentioned `Six’-crackers, prove the band’s creativity and craft as songwriters. All these songs have intensity and combustion, memorable hooks, and are laden with melody and memorable licks. Though still bearing the funky groove and swing, these songs come across more resilient and fertile, more dominant and powerful.
Closing the regular set on a high, Extreme pulls into a great rendition of the underrated ,,Take us Alive”, rocked up by Nuno taking the band into Elvis’ ,,That’s Alright”, and the guitar force majeure ,,Flight of the Wounded Bumble Bee”. Nuno shines on this remake of the classic ,,Flight of the Bumble Bee”, pitching his notes with dazzling speed and finesse, merely touching the strings. The momentum maintained the band waves goodbye diving into the deep with ,,Get the Funk Out”. Funkier and heavier than ever, this isn’t their final bow, as the crowd’s enthusiasm raises.
The encore is a colorful and warming version of ,,Smalltown Beautiful” that lands deep. Nuno’s tribute to EvH with the ,,Women in Love” intro matches the song’s timid setting and displays Nuno’s great feeling as a player and singer, doubling up on Cherone’s vocals during their great performance droning into the perfect show-closer; ,,Rise”. The song is a spectacle performed live and packs insane power with the ‘best guitarsolo of this decade’ raising the bar for all guitarists worldwide. Their final bow under the lead out track ,,Here’s to the Losers” is executed under loud applause of an audience that witnessed the new rise of Extreme.
This ,,Thicker than Blood” stint displays the bands thrive and drive and warm up towards their festival gigs in the summer. The band was in charge this evening and the performance was as magical as it was memorable. Their setlist on par, Extreme proved to be on top of their game, with Nuno in close contact with his fans introducing songs and sharing one-liners. His short tributes to his late friend Eddie van Halen also revealed his vulnerable side, nearly drawn to tears performing. It added to the magic and honesty of the evening that landed deep in the hearts of those present.
It (‘s a Monster)
Rest in Peace
Teacher’s Pet / Flesh ‘n’ Blood / Wind Me Up / Kid Ego
Play With Me
Other Side of the Rainbow
Am I Ever Gonna Change
Thicker than Blood
More Than Words
Take Us Alive / That’s All Right
Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee
Get the Funk Out
EXTREME – THE ENCORE
Smalltown Beautiful/ Song for Love
All photos by Edwin van Hoof