Words by: Grant Walker
Bad Brains :: 10.11.07 :: Paradiso :: Amsterdam, Holland
The vibe inside Amsterdam's Paradiso was something to reckon with. We were there for one reason and one reason alone: to witness the reformed original lineup of hardcore punk icons Bad Brains with Dr. Know, Earl Hudson, Darryl Jenifer and H.R.. When these legendary Rastafarians took stage to kick out their typical repertoire, which moves from sensuous dub reggae into blasting hardcore as if the two were meant for each other, eyes lit up.
Bad Brains by Frank Ockenfels
Their set featured a mix of new and old songs, fast and slow, politically motivated and emotionally inspired. With H.R. center stage, his persona, once that of a no-nonsense politically devoted Rasta, has mellowed considerably. This was a massive contrast to his overly animated, wildly aggressive stage performances of the late '70s and early '80s when the band first started performing. This night he wore white-rimmed sunglasses and a headscarf of the sort your grandmother would have draped over her coffee table. Displaying his trademark Cheshire grin, H.R. stood at the microphone with little movement, switching between Nixon-esque peace signs and pressing his hands together like he was praying to his own private god.
"You're such an energetic crowd!," H.R. said to the sold out Paradiso. The band weaved through their varied songbook including everyone's favourite songs, starting with "Sailin' On" and ending with "Supertouch." Watching Dr. Know's fingers rip across the frets like wildfire, I could see why Bad Brains are one of the most influential hardcore punk bands ever formed. No matter what the song, whether the soft reggae beats of "I Luv I Juh" and "I and I Survive" or the heavy, screeching guitars of "Banned in D.C.," "Right Brigade" and "The Big Takeover," the crowd danced appropriately.
The only disappointment was the length of the set, a paltry hour. For a cover charge of just over 18 euros one expects more than that. The punters knowingly agreed with me, filtering their disappointments into hundreds of plastic beer cups that were hurled on stage following the band's exit.
As a fan of hardcore punk since I was a troublesome teenager, seeing Bad Brains live was, in a way, a relief. Growing up, bands like Bad Brains, Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat were the cornerstones of the scene. A chance to see Bad Brains in the flesh was a definitive moment for myself and many other hardcore music fans.
Check out JamBase's exclusive interview with Beastie Boy and Bad Brains album producer Adam Yauch and founding member Dr. Know HERE...
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