Transforming the magic of a studio recording into a live performance can often be a musician's toughest task.
In the studio there are a million ways -- although not always an unlimited amount of time -- to hone the sound of a piece of music. But once on stage there are no second chances. What you play is exactly what the audience hears.
Last night's Living Colour concert at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum in College Park was a prime example of a live concert that didn't live up to expectations.
Let's get the excuses out of the way immediately: Ritchie Coliseum is by any standard the worst facility imaginable. Physically dilapidated and acoustically dreadful, it is a musical dive in every respect.
But even with the best possible site scenario -- the acoustics of the Meyerhoff and the energy of a jammed-packed house at Hammerjacks -- Living Colour would have still disappointed.
Although the band sports the best hard rock album of the year, the irresistibly funky and bombastically bluesy "Time's Up," Living Colour somehow lost its studio magic on the way to the gig.
Guitarist Vernon Reid transformed his wonderfully eloquent leads (from the album) in "Someone Like You" and the title track into a muddled mess.
The otherwise brilliant rhythm section of drummer William Calhoun and bassist Muzz Skillings was consistently out of time, marching to a totally different beat for the first half-dozen songs and destroying the show-opener, "New Jack Theme."
The only one in the quartet that managed to duplicate the urgency and passion of the original music was singer Corey Glover, who also had his problems early in the show, being drowned out by Reid's wailing leads and the booming bass lines.
Sure, there are those who would argue that live performance is all about spontaneity -- no one wants to pay $18 to hear a record that they already have at home.
However, several times last night -- especially early in the show, when the sound mix was brutal -- Living Colour sounded like a completely different band than the one which created "Time's Up" and its fine 1988 predecessor, "Vivid."
The band seemed to leap out of its rut and into sync mid-way through the 17-song, two-hour show when the pace slowed for "Love Rears Its Ugly Head," a funky R&B ballad that gets its charge from Reid's guitar.
For a moment it appeared Living Colour was going to miraculously overcome all of the obstacles in its way and deliver a finale of hits that would make up for its unsatisfying introduction.
But unlike the energy level in the coliseum, which seemed to rise with each song, the show never ascended to its potential.