When a friend told me some weeks ago that the Bad Brains were coming to Brussels I didn't hesitate to buy a ticket. It would have been unforgivable to forsake this occasion when the Brains are playing just 500 meters from my home. And apparently I was right because last Sunday the Hallen van Schaarbeek were packed with people from all over Europe, as the band played only four concerts this side of the ocean on their mini-tour.
It's not unforgivable not to know the Bad Brains. They never broke through in the mainstream. There aren't many bands who have invented their own genre though. The Brains did when, in the late 1970s, these jazz musicians toyed around with punk, significantly jacking up the speed, until hardcore was born. They were the first and probably also the best hardcore band ever, becoming an inspiration for every generation that has played rock and punk ever since. And if that wasn't enough to make them stand out, they tend to alternate hardcore with reggae during live shows and on their records.
Las time I saw the band must have been about 20 years ago. I had just discovered "Rock for Light", an album that is still on my favorites list (and should be on yours if you care for some pretty intense music), and I was blown away by their frantic live show.
Last Sunday singer HR, known to be extremely unpredictable, was not really with us and his performance was downright dull--hands in his pocket and his head covered with a scarf. The music was great though. The rhythm section is still rock solid at breakneck speed and Dr. Know's guitar playing hasn't lost any of its genius after all those years. The gig was way too short but still it was worthwhile. Even if their new album doesn't live up to the recordings of the early years, the Bad Brains' live shows are still an experience.