It was the summer of 1991. I was a 13 year old kid just fresh into my discovery of the world of rock n roll music. By some miraculous occurrence I managed to save up $80. It was just enough cash to purchase a Sony Discman and leave the world of cassette tapes forever behind me. After securing the player, my next stop was Camelot Music to get some music. After flipping through all of the bins, I purchased my first cd, Extreme’s “Pornograffitti.” That album would be the soundtrack to that summer. To this day, I am taken back to that time in my life when I listen to it. Just a couple of months later, July 22, 2991 to be exact, I would go to my first ever rock n roll concert. It was David Lee Roth, Cinderella and Extreme. As you can see, the band Extreme has significance in my musical journey. Perhaps that is why I am having such a difficult time writing about my most recent experience with them.
Fast forward twenty-five years. Extreme is celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of their record, “Poronograffitti.” To commemorate the occasion, the band released a two-disc version of the record with a number of outtakes and demos on the bonus disc. They also embarked on the “Pornograffitti Live” tour, in which they play the album in it’s entirety. When I heard the tour was coming to town I secured a VIP ticket right away. In addition to just getting into the show, the VIP experience offers a chance to meet the band, attend sound check, a signed lithograph and laminate, and early entrance into the venue, all for one low price of $100. In theory, it sounded like a great deal. A couple of days prior to the show I received an e-mail with very detailed instructions for the VIP package. We were told to arrive at the venue by 4:00pm, as late arrivals could not be guaranteed access to the event.
By 4:00pm on the day of the show, a line of approximately 100 VIP ticket holders had formed. It was a particularly cold afternoon in Cincinnati, but people’s spirits were high. It wasn’t until around 4:30 – 4:45 when some grumbling could start to be heard. It was also when the band could be heard sound checking. A collective, “WTF?” came from us gathered, still outside in the cold. A staff member from Bogart’s apologized to us all and explained that the tour manager was not ready for us to come into the venue. This staff member did eventually let us in the stairwell to get out of the cold. Word also started to spread at this point that the band’s guitarist, Nuno Bettencourt had not arrived to the venue yet. That was not proven, just speculated.
Sometime after 5:00pm we were all brought into the club and we’re greeted by the band’s tour manager. We were given our signed lithograph and laminates, and were told in detail how things would go. The meet and greet would be first. We could get one item signed and have one picture taken with our own camera or phone. We would then go on to the stage area where the band would play us a special set of four or five songs. The meet and greet was great. The guys chatted a little and I got my vinyl copy of “Pornograffitti” signed. I also got my picture with the band. Despite the delay in getting started, I was very happy at this point. Here is where things started to stray from what we were told….and not told.
The private set (sound check) started off pretty good. The band came on stage and asked for requests. The band played “Cynical” from their 1995 album, “Waiting for the Punchline,” at a fans request. During the song Nuno appeared to acknowledge that same fan, pointing to him. It seemed like a really cool thing for him to do by acknowledging the guy who requested an obscure song from the band’s least successful album. Turns out he was pointing the fan out to security so they could tell him to stop recording the song with his phone. Shortly after this incident, Nuno sent someone out to tell fans to stop taking pictures of any kind. Please note that nowhere in the VIP explanation, or during the tour managers instruction was it ever said that we could not take pictures. The picture policy was lifted for one song however when Nuno called a thirteen year old girl up to play “Get the Funk Out” with the band. This young girl was undeniably amazing, and nothing I am saying is an effort to detract from her moment or ability. While she was playing Nuno had no problem pulling out his phone to record her and to pose for pictures for people in the audience. The moment felt very much like a pre-meditated PR opportunity.
All and all, the band played two songs that were not in the evenings set, and then played two songs of which would be played during the concert later in the night. From there, Nuno went in to his own personal sound check, checking each insturment and effect that he would be using during the show. It was like we were not standing there at all. He could not have cared less. I quickly began to feel like a Very Insignificant Person. The rest of the band hung out for a few minutes but quietly disappeared when they realized that everything was all about their guitar player. You could tell that Nuno pretty much decided that he was actually the VIP, and we were just lucky to be in his presence. I guess Rihanna isn’t the only diva in her band. Once Bettencourt had gone through all of his gear, he said goodbye and that was that.
Have you ever gotten sick after eating a certain food, or perhaps from drinking a certain beverage…? You know that the next time you come into contact with that particular item that feeling of being sick comes right back. Well, that is how the rest of the night was for me. No matter how amazing the show was, that sound check, mini-concert, or whatever the hell it was, left me with a bad taste in my mouth towards the band…or at least one member of the band. With that said, I have to say that the show was amazing. The band played a two and a half hour set made up of 21 songs. The first portion of the show was the “Pornograffitti” album played from start to finish. My only complaint came when the band played perhaps their most well-known song, “More Than Words.” The microphone was pointed out to the crowd and most of the song was just a big sing along. I know that the band is most likely tired of this song, but it just comes off as lazy and it annoys me to no end. Considering they put four different versions of the song on the bonus disc of the “Pornograffitti” re-release, you figure they would have put more effort into performing it. But that minor issue was the only blemish on an otherwise great set. Gary Cherone is the ultimate front man. He kept the crowd enthused all night, though sometimes I questioned his own level of enthusiasm. And I could be wrong here, but I could swear that he looked at his hand just before asking, “how are you doing….Cincinnati?” Bassist Pat Badger and drummer Kevin Figueiredo are definitely the unsung heroes of the band. The provided a tight pocket all evening long which allowed Nuno Bettencourt to showcase his talents on the guitar. The band made a statement with the show they put on. While they were celebrating their past, they are not resting on it. They are not content hanging out on the retro circuit. They are a talented group of musicians, and still very much a relevant band. Once they have blown out the candles on Pornograffitti’s anniversary, expect new music from this band.
So those are the facts as I recall them. If I had just bought a normal ticket to the show, this would have been a glowing review. But after spending the extra money I can’t help but feel taken advantage of in some small way. Maybe to the band, $100 is not a big chunk of change. But to a lot of people, spending $100 on a VIP ticket means sacrifice. Maybe pulling more hours at work, cutting back on other expenses, or selling stuff to get the money. I realize bands have to conduct these types of events in order to make up for some of the costs of the declining record industry. But they need to remember that the people who are shelling out the extra money for these VIP experiences are most of the people still buying their records. They damn well better treat these people well, because without them, who else do you have? It was pointed out to me that the guys in bands are people who have other things going on and sometimes it’s hard for them to do everything asked of them. I understand that and appreciate it. If I walked up to a band member on the street and received a cold reception, I would understand that. But if you take my money, I am your customer. You better try and make me happy, or I may not come back. At the end of the day, they have a job to do. And I would say it is a pretty cool job to have. Hey, I didn’t want to get up on the morning after this show to go to work, but I did what I had to do. So if you are going to offer a VIP experience to your fans, suck it up and make them feel like you appreciate them. No matter how good you play and sound, the last memory that a fan may walk away with is of the guitar player’s diva like behavior. Would I ever go see Extreme in concert again? Definitely. Would I every give them an extra dollar to be a “VIP”? Not on your life.
“Not to say it, but if you only knew
How easy it would be to show me how you feel
More than words is all you have to do to make it real”
Extreme Setlist – 1/27/15 – Bogart’s
– Decadence Dance
– Li’l Jack Horny
– When I’m President
– Get the Funk Out
– More Than Words
– Money (In God We Trust)
– It (‘s a Monster)
– When I First Kissed You
– Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)
– He-Man Woman Hater (Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee intro
– Song for Love
– Hole Hearted
– Play With Me
-Rest in Peace
– Kid Ego
– Am I Ever Gonna Change
– Take Us Alive
– Hip Today
– Midnight Exdpress
– Cupid’s Dead