Can the Rainbow Coalition beat the Rambo Coalition at its own game? If the funky metal titans in Living Colour have their way, the answer may be yes. If Living Colour’s debut album, Vivid, is your first exposure to the snap, crackle, and atomic explosion of guitarist/idea man Vernon Reid, you might be tempted to describe him as Eddie Van Halen with black skin and a college-level vocabulary. But unlike Fast Eddie, Reid is as subversive a presence from the neck up as he is from the neck down. After recording several of this decade’s most remarkable jazz/funk/cathartic-noise records as a member of Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society, Reid went on to become the guiding light in New York City’s Black Rock Coalition, an organization of vanguard musicians who challenge the cultural and commercial forces that have made black rock groups about as common as black fans of Jimmy the Greek. While Vivid isn’t a manifesto on the order of There’s a Riot Goin’ On, One Nation Under a Groove, or even Sign o’ tbe Times, two live performances last year convinced me that Living Colour has surpassed the Bad Brains’ Rasta metal and Fishbone’s cartoon ska as rock’s great black hope. Saturday, 11 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Deborah Feingold.