The Sparks in Extreme Shape the Music

Band: Extreme.

Personnel: Gary Cherone, vocals; Nuno Bettencourt, guitar; Pat Badger, bass; Paul Geary, drums.

History: When Bettencourt first encountered vocalist Cherone, it was animosity at first sight. Cherone's band, the Dream, was headlining a show and his then-guitarist haughtily kicked the openers--Bettencourt's group--out of the communal dressing room. A couple of years later, in 1985, when Bettencourt and Cherone ran across each other once again, sparks flew--but they were sparks of inspiration. "We hit it off as writers," recalled Cherone in a recent interview. "We were the missing link for each other." Bettencourt's sense of musical adventure fit perfectly with Cherone's wild lyrical ideas and a tightly knit songwriting team was born. Cherone pulled Geary, the Dream's drummer, into the project and a few months later they recruited Badger. The members' combined reputations on the local scene gave Extreme immediate drawing power in Boston-area clubs. By November '87, when the group was signed to A&M; Records, Extreme had been named Outstanding Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Act at the Boston Music Awards for two years straight--an honor that the band earned again in '88.

Sound: Extreme's frolic through the hard rock arena is winsome and colorful. Its self-titled debut album contains a jumble of moods, from the goofy and childlike "Mutha" and "Play With Me" to the classically inspired "Rock A Bye Bye," which pensively tackles the issue of abortion. On several other numbers it spends time exploring blues-based rock, but with a funky beat that's appealingly different. The group is tightly orchestrated, which gives its songs a complexity rare in its musical genre. Bettencourt's array of psychotic noodlings and noises should satisfy most guitar aficionados, but his secret weapon is his strong sense of rhythm playing. Cherone's brazen vocals can bump and grind through the rougher tunes, then turn around and become hauntingly emotive. Extreme's well-rounded understanding of rock 'n' roll and well-developed imagination bring a fresh edge to the tried-and-true form.

Show: Wednesday at the Roxy.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World