Saturday, January 29, 2011

1987: Big Audio Dynamite

I just received notification, via my Facebook page, that BAD has reunited - so I dug up this concert review from the late Reagan Era. They're currently touring the UK, and will be playing Coachella this spring. Welcome news! Their FB fan page is right here.

British rockers Big Audio Dynamite lived up to their billing Saturday night at the Catalyst. Led by Clash co-founder Mick Jones, BAD delighted a packed dancefloor with their high decibel blend of contemporary funk and visceral punk.

Three years ago, the Clash, minus Jones, played the Santa Cruz Civic, and something was definitely missing. Joe Strummer, who formed the Clash with Jones in 1976, had just sacked his partner over the proverbial "artistic differences". Apparently, Strummer wanted the emphasis on his politically conscious lyrics, which helped the Clash break out of the underground in the late 70's.

Jones, meanwhile, derived his inspiration from Jamaican reggae and American funk and rap. His fusion of these styles with British new wave had critics hailing the Clash for their eclecticism.

After firing Jones, Strummer returned to his hardcore punk roots, taking a revamped Clash on the road to a generally lukewarm response. Jones, ignoring Strummer's public abuse of him, lay low for a year or so, then started BAD.

If the Clash's motto was "the only band that matters", BAD's must be "find a groove and fill it". By the third song - their signature tune "Bad" - they had found that groove, and it only deepened as the night went on.

While Jones enumerated "the things that drive me crazy", his bandmates set up a rhythmic and percussive attack. Drummer Greg Roberts and bassist Leo Williams kept the crowd moving, while Dan Donovan provided texture on keyboards.

Vocalist Don Letts, who let loose with a few inspired raps, handled BAD's trademark tape effects. The little snippets of film and radio dialogue during instrumental breaks lent a touch of surrealism to the mix.

Mick Jones hasn't lost his sense of politics - he dedicated one tune to "Mr. Reagan, the memory man" - he just doesn't beat you over the head it. He's dealing with other tried-and-true rock themes, like the mating game ("Wind Me Up") or the music itself ("C'mon Every Beatbox").

When BAD encored with "Beatbox" and "E = MC2", perhaps their two biggest hits, the dancers were just this side of frenzy. Called back a second time, they offered Prince's "1999" and sent everyone home with smiles on their faces.

While Strummer, hat in hand, co-wrote a few tracks on the latest BAD album, Jones has been quick to downplay any talk of a Clash reunion. To underscore that, he played no Clash songs on Saturday. While songs like "London Calling" and "Rock the Casbah" would undoubtedly have strengthened the set, Jones chose to keep the emphasis on his new band, and he's got a point there. With his varied influences and spirited mates, Jones has established BAD as a band to watch - and nobody watching was standing still.

UPDATE: Please check out these great cover versions of Clash tunes by Rachid Taha and some other guys you might recognize.

No comments:

Post a Comment