Vernon Reid Shares Opinion on Nuno Bettencourt’s Playing, Explains Why ’His Approach Is so Much Deeper Now’

Living Colour’s guitar player Vernon Reid weighed in on another six-string hero, Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt. While chatting with Australian Musician in an interview, Reid was asked about his band’s current tour with Extreme.

After explaining how this particular touring combo should have happened earlier but, due to various logistics reasons it never materialized, Vernon was then asked to share some tour stories and what it’s generally like to be on the road with Nuno. He replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“A lot of this is about simpatico between the bands. And you have to have simpatico if you’re traveling as a traveling roadshow carnival or what have you.”

Living Colour & EXTREME live at Starland Ballroom, NJ

“And you know, I like him personally, I respect him, he’s immensely talented as a guitarist, he is extraordinary. He’s an extraordinary guitarist.”

Going more into the matter, he also recalled doing Tom Morello’s guitar camp a few years back where, as he recalls, the two of them just “hit it off.” Vernon continued:

“I mean, I could say from my perspective, and part of the thing is that we have both done — Tom Morello did a guitar camp. And both Nuno and I were lecturers along with John 5, Wayne Kramer, and Tom Morello. And we just hit it off.”

STEVE VAI Big Mama Jamathon with John 5, Vernon Reid, Tosin Abasi, Nuno Bettencourt

“You know, there’s a kind of posturing that can occur, but he’s not that guy, and I really appreciate that. And we’re both not posturing people in that way about the guitar.”

While discussing this, the interviewer mentioned how he and Nuno are different players. Vernon replied:

“Yeah, we’re very different. There’s a little bit of crossover, but the music is very different. It’s interesting, because it’s very complementary, in its own way. We both have our intensities, and we both have our things that we do.”

Living Colour - Cult Of Personality w/ Steve Vai at Rock In Rio 2022

Although Vernon is just a bit older, he and Nuno are contemporaries and their respective bands broke out around the same time. And knowing that Living Colour and Extreme have both explored similar genre combinations in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Reid is definitely one of the guys who can pass judgment on Nuno’s musicianship.

And, as he also added, Nuno Bettencourt’s playing has changed over the years and he feels like he’s going through a “renaissance” now:

“I think that’s interesting, too, that Nuno is experiencing a real renaissance, because he kind of came in as a kind of fireball early on, and now his approach is so… I don’t want to say ‘mature,’ but it’s so much deeper now.”

The Nuno Bettencourt Interview

And, of course, there’s also Extreme’s “Rise” from the new album “Six.” As we all know by now, the song’s solo got a lot of attention, even way outside of just the guitar players’ circles. Vernon said of it:

“I mean, the song ‘Rise,’ there’s no way you can just listen to the musical technical accomplishment. You just have to respect it, it’s extraordinary, it’s a good guitar solo everyone’s talking about, and deservedly so.”

“But weirdly enough, it’s kind of um… I don’t know, man. It’s brilliant. And he’s a fun guy. [laughs]”

EXTREME Live "Rise" at the Monsters of Rock Cruise Pool Stage 2023

But despite being an incredibly impressive technical achievement, the solo in “Rise” is way more than just a piece for showing off. As Nuno explained in an interview with Ultimate Guitar this year, he offered:

“I play solos that fit in the song and that’s what’s more important to me is that they fit in the song, it’s not an Olympics for me. It’s not to make everybody be as impressed as they were by ‘Rise.'”

During that same chat, Nuno also pointed out that his goal wasn’t to impress people with a technical solo but rather to create something that makes sense within the context of the song. He said:

“I mean, look, do I try to do a good solo on purpose? Of course. But you never know how people are going to respond. But a part of me also thinks that it’s not just a guitar solo. The guitar solo is decent, but I’ve been doing these solos for 30 years.”

Extreme - "Rise" (Official Video)

“Not very different, you know, same techniques, same styles. But I think the difference is like what you said, I think people are starved. They’re starved for not necessarily guitar playing, but they’re starved… We always see great guitar players these days. The majority of them are sitting in rooms like we are, chairs, playing guitar.”

“But I think what really got people excited, was that they weren’t only seeing a guitar player and a solo they liked, they were seeing a guitar solo in a song with arrangements and harmonies and a band and chemistry, a video where a band was passionate, and fire.”

During a recent interview with Killer Guitar Rigs, Dream Theater’s John Petrucci also praised Nuno Bettencourt, offering:

“He’s a nut. He’s like, an amazing guitar player. And I remember learning some of that stuff and just being so impressed.”

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“So I’m not surprised at all that Nuno came up with a solo like that. The guy’s just a monster player. And what a great one for the ages, man. Hats off to him for that, that killer, killer solo.”

“And I love that everybody’s talking about that and talking about him and talking about guitar and talking about shredding. That’s a much better conversation to have, then, you know, ‘Oh, guitar solo shouldn’t be in rock music.’ I love that we’re having a conversation about how awesome Nuno’s solo is. [Laughs] I think it’s killer.”

Photos: Alex Lozupone (Lozlivingcolour-2016-05-31-04h27m53s725), Public domain (Nuno Bettencourt (cropped))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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