Nuno Bettencourt says that anyone who thinks taking on a pop gig with Rihanna is an easy night’s work has no idea what they are letting themselves in for, and says that even rock’s greatest players would struggle to get through a set with the Barbadian superstar.
Bettencourt first toured with Rihanna on the 2009 Last Girl On Earth run, and has been on call ever since, and on 12 February he joined her for the half-time show at the Super Bowl LVII at the State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona.
“I’m sorry, most of the guitar players who I admire could not in their lifetime play that gig,” he said. “I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Slash is one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time but I guarantee – and he’d be the first to tell you – that if he jumps up and he’s got play a clean intro to Rude Boy from Rihanna, it ain’t happening.”
Bettencourt’s rock chops are beyond question. There is a case to be made that he is the best hard-rock player in the world right now. But that’s not where the Rihanna gig will test you. It’s in the variety, the different styles you have to play.
One minute it’s reggae, the next R&B, or a dance tune, all the while the guitar has got to be on-point. Bettencourt said playing with Rihanna give him the ability to sit in with anyone. But listening to everything growing up gave him the sensibility to adapt to Rihanna’s set.
“I believe that if I wasn’t that diverse musically and accept everything I grew up on, there’s no way that I would have been in these rooms,” he said.
It’s also one of the reasons why Extreme sound they way they do. It is the reason why they can write a drop D up-tempo rocker – yes, with a ripping solo – like Rise, or play summertime ska-pop of Beautiful girls. All of these influences are percolating in Bettencourt’s head and whatever comes out on the day is the song.
“We don’t do it to be different. What we do is, whatever fucking time we are doing an album, we are in a bubble and we are doing what we love, and it is as simple as that,” said Bettencourt, speaking to MusicRadar about Extreme’s long-awaited return with new album Six. “We are not trying to do what’s happening now. We might be influenced by what’s happening now. We were influenced by what happened in the ‘90s. We were influenced by what we are always influenced by.
“But I’ve never sat down to write a song, like X Out, and it’s going to be something, and it’s gonna do this. Or I am going to write a song like Hurricane. Every day you write selfishly, self-centredly.”