House of Blues, Sept. 26
By Matthew Flesicher
“The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me. All throughout this so called nation, we don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed. We just wanna end your world.”
In a just world, the Bad Brains’ “Fearless Vampire Killers” will be playing when the gates of the White House come crashing down and Dick Cheney is dragged onto the South Lawn, stripped naked and beaten unmercifully with his own shoe for all the world to see.
If Wednesday’s House of Blues show was any indication, however, when said day-of-reckoning comes, someone better bring a souped-up ghetto blaster because the Bad Brains won’t be the ones playing it. Not the way it needs to be played anyway.
Photos by Timothy Norris. Click here for many more.
H.R. is fucking irie. In many ways that’s a good thing. Everyone up front by the stage left with their faces intact – not always a given in Bad Brains shows past. But while H.R.’s irie-ness may help prevent any unfortunate, repeat mic-stand assaults, it doesn’t always work for a band trying to reconnect with its revolutionary hardcore roots.
Touring behind their new album Build a Nation, (produced by the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch) the Bad Brains have recently been trumpeted for their return to the hardcore fury of their legendary ROIR Sessions after decades of experimentation with metal. But while the album more than accomplishes this successfully, after seeing the Bad Brains live, it seems an odd choice for them to want to connect with roots they couldn’t appear to be more fucking bored with.
Early in the set, H.R. may very well have been sleepwalking, standing completely motionless and humming in a dull monotone through the hardcore anthems “Sailin’ On,” “The Regulator” and “Attitutde.” He later came in too early and skipped a couple of lines of “Banned in D.C.” Though the kids in the pit didn’t seem to mind, at least one person in the back wondered aloud what H.R. sounded like “off his meds.”
That wasn’t a fair assessment of the overall show though. All the late 80’s metal songs were tight and H.R.’s vocals were at their squealing, screeching best. “Re-ignition” and “Gene Machine” were especially ferocious and Dr. Know unleashed his solos with Zeppelinesque precision and intensity. The new hardcore songs sounded great too – “Give Thanks and Praises” and “Universal Peace” were fast, hard and sung with passion and actual inflection. And, of course, the reggae jams “I and I Survive” and “I Love I Jah” had both the audience and H.R. bouncing across the room. Only the hardcore standards were lacking.
When he wants to be, H.R. is still among the best showmen in the music business and Dr. Know, Darryl and Earl are as fierce as ever. Bad Brains may no longer have the desire to bring down the walls of Jericho, but they’d be great for the after-party.
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Photos by Timothy Norris. Click here for more.