August 3, 2010


Dan Swanson, left Nick David and Charles Davis on stage Sunday with Living Colour at the Tupelo.

When frontman Corey Glover couldn't go on, Living Colour leaves it to the fans, who come through -- proving Rock Band is not just a game you play in your living room. Sometimes dreams really do come true.

Union Leader Correspondent

Corey Glover was sidelined with laryngitis.

LONDONDERRY – Twenty-five minutes past showtime at the Tupelo Music Hall Sunday night, and everybody was winging it.
Still lingering in the tour bus when they should have been well into their first set, Living Colour realized lead singer Corey Glover's laryngitis was getting worse. With their European tour days away, there was too much at stake to risk further damage to his vocals.

Inside the sold-out venue, hall manager Rob Coultas had to decide whether to call off the show or give the band the green light to play two hours of music, with no singer.

And then there were the fans – mellow but getting restless as the clock ticked. They were ready for what had been promised – a hard-rocking repertoire of favorite tunes delivered by the voice that put Living Colour on the map.

Several twists of fate later, three New Hampshire fans were  unwittingly on their way to the thrill ride of a lifetime – saving the show and making history, at least that's according to Tupelo owner Scott Hayward.

“I've never heard of anything like it, not in my experience. It was like an open mic night, only with Living Colour as your backup musicians,” said Hayward. 

After Glover came out nearly 40 minutes past show time and, in a raspy voice, told the crowd he wasn't able to join the band, the soundtrack to some of the band's greatest hits began. A few songs in, guitarist Vernon Reid and bassist Doug Wimbish said the magic words. 

“If anyone out there knows the lyrics to a song, come on up,” said Reid. 

They were just kidding, But that simple phrase stirred Nick David, Charles Davis, and Dan Swanson to live out their greatest Rock Band fantasies. The three didn't come to the show together. They didn't even know each other. But the planets seemed to line up for the unexpected trio, turning what should have been a band concert bust into the best night ever.

“It took gathering up a bit of intestinal fortitude,” said David, 37, a Concord blues musician who has had an obscure musical career that has occasionally landed him on stage jamming with the likes of Blues Traveler front man John Popper and Boston's Brad Delp. 

“I've been on stage enough that I didn't want to be that jerk, the gnatty little guy who buzzes around a band thinking he can sing something when he can't. But then I figured this was my chance: I didn't really care anymore if I sang out of tune or forgot the words,” said David, who took the mike for one of the band's better-known hits, “Love Rears Its Ugly Head.”

“I'd never seen them perform live, but in the late '80s and early '90s, another band didn't exist for me; they were it,” said David.  

The feeling was mutual for Charles Davis of Nashua, who said when Living Colour came onto the music scene, it literally changed his life. 

“As an African-American kid who loved rock growing up in New Hampshire, there were not a lot of role models for me musically. Living Colour became my superheroes. They were playing the music I loved and they all happened to be African Americans. That blew my mind,” said Davis, 39, who teaches percussion at Nashua High School South, and is a private drum teacher.

When he saw David take the band up on its original invitation for someone to join them on stage, he figured he missed his opportunity. Then opportunity knocked, again.

“I was there with my friend Rick – when we were young we played in a Living Colour cover band, Funny Vibe, named for one of the band's earliest hits. As the band started playing, I was sitting there thinking – hey, I know every lyric. It would be a huge honor if they'd just let me do one song. I ended up singing, 'Type,' one of my favorites,” said Davis. 

All he really wanted was an autograph.

“It was reminiscent of the movie 'Rock Star,' that surreal feeling, looking to my right and seeing Vernon Reid, and having Will Calhoun – one of my top 10 drummers of all time – behind me,” Davis said. “It was absolutely a dream come true.

The journey for Dan Swanson of Weare was a little different. 

“It's a cool story. I work at Daddy's Junky Music in Manchester. Saturday was my day off, but I got a call from someone at work who said, 'Hey, you might wanna come in. There's someone here you might recognize,” said Swanson. 

That someone was Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun, who had stopped by the music store to look at drum kits. 

“I told him I was a huge fan, and that we even cover 'Cult of Personality' in my band,” said Swanson.

Calhoun offered to put Swanson on the guest list for Sunday's show, and Swanson was thrilled to actually see the band he grew up listening to perform live, thanks to his older brother's music catalog.

Swanson got the nerve to go up after the band, feeling on a roll, asked if anyone else wanted to join. He pulled David up with him, to help with harmonies.

“I've worked as a roadie and there's always that barrier you can't cross, looking at the band from the side of the stage. Finally, it's me, on stage with some of my heroes, singing their song that means so much to me. Vocally, it was huge. I'm still reeling,” Swanson said. 

It was equally thrilling for the band, said Calhoun, who talked about the Tupelo show via cell phone from a tour bus in the aftermath. The band canceled a show scheduled for tonight, making Sunday's historic interactive show one for the record books.

But they did make a pit stop at Daddy’s Junky Music yesterday, to buy the drum kit.

“No, we didn't anticipate anyone would actually come up on stage. Having played the Tupelo before, we actually felt kind of at home. We felt comfortable enough to plan to just go out and just play, just let it go and see what happened. We were really thrilled by the whole experience,” said Calhoun. 

“It was fun and unusual and also kind of weird. We only said what we said in jest, but at a moment like that, you have no control over. After Corey couldn't sing, we were just in a 'roll the dice' mode. We rolled the dice and it couldn't have worked out better, for everyone,” said Calhoun.

Below: Nick David's full performance via YouTube

Link to Living Colour's official site:
Link to Nick David's band, Mr. Nick and the Dirty Tricks:
Link to Charles Davis' site:
Link to Dan Swanson's band, Friday After 5:

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