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EXTREME TO DELIVER KNOCKOUT PUNCHLINE

Anybody who owns a radio has heard at least one Extreme song. The band's 1991 hit "More Than Words" was a staple on nearly every radio station, managing to find a niche on easy listening, top 40 and rock stations. Their follow-up single from '91's "Pornograffitti," "Hole Hearted," was also a giant hit. They appeared on the sound-track for "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," which "Beethoven" performed on screen.

Despite all the fame and the fortune these songs made for the four-man band from Boston - performing at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Saltair - they contend that those ballads are only a small part of what they are about.Pat Badger, from his hotel in Denver, explained that Extreme is far more than a couple of pretty tunes.

"A lot of people know this band only for a small part of what we can do: our mainstream success. Music is all about moods. We're proud to have a lot of those."

One listen to the two latest Extreme discs will leave little doubt that this isn't a band that rehashes old material.

Everybody was caught off guard by the '92 release "III Sides to Every Story." Instead of trying to capitalize on the financial benefits of their previous works, they produced a completely different album that didn't contain a written-for-radio ballad.

Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt arranged orchestral parts for some of the songs, all of which were too long for radio play. The album also drifted to more serious subjects and avoided romance.

February marked the release of their fourth album, "Waiting for the Punchline," and once again it isn't what anybody expected. This is a bare-bones, wry, no-frills, bottom-end album that, if nothing else, is an adventurous step for the band.

"There is a little more serious and cynical tone to the record. Gary (Cherone, vocalist) writes what is going on around him. People might think he is preaching, but he is more just standing on the sidelines and commenting. If you look at the lyrics, you can see that he is playing devil's advocate a lot."

Extreme's song-writing process has evolved over the years. According to Badger, "Punchline's" songs were written in less time than previous works.

"It used to be more Nuno sitting down with a drum machine. Now we're all a lot more involved with the song writing. We did a lot of jam-ming on the sound checks (before concerts) instead of playing songs from the records."

Badger feels that this has several advantages.

"This album lends itself a lot more to playing live. Our strength is our live show. We've played a lot of shows together, and playing live is what it is all about for us. These songs translate better to the stage. This record captures more of a live feel."

Another change for the band is the addition of new drummer Mike Man-gini. A Boston native, he jumped aboard and has given the group a breath of fresh air.

"He (Mangini) plays with a lot of style and has really spiced up a lot of songs that we've been playing for several years. Just his want to be out there (on stage), and his want to be playing, gives us new life.

"He is such a solid drummer. A lot of drummers lag or speed up with time (during a song), but he is like a human metronome."

Bettencourt still leaves his distinct impression on the newest disc that Interview magazine calls "one of the most ferociously creative rock albums of the last 10 years."

The guitar genius wows listeners with his five-minute acoustic wonder "Midnight Express."

Bettencourt's virtuosity alone will be worth the price of admission to Friday's show. And with a little luck, the maverick rockers might even play "More Than Words."