Bad Brains | 10.11 | Amsterdam

Words by: Grant Walker

Bad Brains :: 10.11.07 :: Paradiso :: Amsterdam, Holland

Bad Brains by Frank Ockenfels
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.

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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[Published on: 10/26/07]

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nuke_ticketbastard starstarstarstar Fri 10/26/2007 12:24PM
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cool , sounds like HR has got his head together , glad to hear it.

i have seen bad brains like 4 times ( 3 times in the 80's w/out hr & once in the 90's w/ hr ) the shows i saw w/out him were great - dr. no sang on a couple occasions and for 1 tour they had some young guy singing. when i finally got the chance to see the whole band live it was such a letdown , hr was so out of it he barely sang at all and hid behind a speaker most of the show which was very short - like 30 minutes if that ...

so while 1 hour doesn't sound like much just be grateful you did get to see them as they truly are legends of the scene.

Armedaneian starstarstarstar Sun 10/28/2007 08:44AM
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Good article Grant... it makes me hope for a whole U.S. tour.

DaKracken starstarstarstar Sun 10/28/2007 10:32PM
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As a long time fan of hardcore and rasta beats Bad Brains proves that the two are not mutually exclusive-good music is just that-good music. I went to see Bad Brains on my 21st birthday and being unaware of the bands status in the music community and wanting the party to continue I had no reservations approaching the bass player to see if they wanted to party after the show. My punk buddies were astounded when I told them we were going back to the Best Western to throw down with the fellas. Since I was 21 that night I had a big sack of nugs and was legally able to buy a few cases of beer and show up with my buddies for a late night smoke session. So we proceded to get beyond baked with these guys and I marveled at how chill they were. I ragged on HR for bogarting the biggest spliff I have ever seen and told him to think of everybody else to pass it on. This thrilled HR as he apologized profusely for being greedy and appreciated my willingness to speak up for the others in the room. His sincerity was something I will never forget as he grasped my hand and told me that he appreciated being treated just like one of the guys and not as an icon. Earl,Darryl and HR made such an impression on me that night that here I am 20 years later reliving the experience in my mind. I remember HR speaking to me about missing his wife which was refreshing to hear from a "rock star" and showed a nice side to his humanity. As we left that night the band thanked us for spending time with them and wished me happy birthday again. To experience their power on stage and then share the power of unity and fellowship with them made for the best birthday gift ever. Soulcraft from the Quickness lp is still one of my favorite riffs and thank about the night everytime I hear it.

maze920 starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/29/2007 07:15AM
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Their new album is great. I got to see them in Austin, TX back in the day. If you have the opportunity do not pass it up.

freerayliotta starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/1/2007 11:54AM
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I got to see the brains for the first 2 times this past summer. One on the rocks off boat cruise and the other was the virgin festival. Both shows were great. Im 25 so i missed all of the glory days by about 25 years so it was just great to see them in any capacity. HR sure isn't the performer that he used to be, but even back then he wouldn't sing for several songs at a time. At virgin fest they were energetic and on point - it couldn't have been any better.

I wouldn't hold my breath for a full US tour - Go see them whenever you can because who knows if they will ever be playing again. True legends that still bring the fire.

MiWi La Lupa Thu 11/1/2007 01:09PM
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MiWi La Lupa

Is Earl not the hardest hitting drummer alive? He breaks a sweat, but it doesn't look like he gets tired at all. I hear most of them live up in Woodstock. Perfect place for music legends to reside. Peace...

Booo to throwing cups at the stage...