Big Audio Dynamite at Club Nokia

Big Audio Dynamite at Club Nokia (August 10, 2011)

It was a pretty big deal when that other post-class of ’77 punk, dance-influenced, experimental band that went by an acronym got back together and came through town last year. Of course, that was PiL with ex-Pistol John Lydon. (Both bands even have themes based on their names!) I missed that particular reunion tour, though, since I got to see them on the Generic Tour at the Hollywood Palladium back in 1986 and a few times after that, to boot. But when it was announced that Mick Jones was finally coming back to L.A. with B.A.D.,  I knew I couldn’t miss it. His previous band, The Clash, is one of my two favorite bands of all time (J Church is the other) and I love Big Audio Dynamite, too. Never got to see them.

Mick Jones wearing blue and brown but not working for the clampdown.

Wendy and I caught the end of The Chain Gang of 1974′s opening set. A pretty good mix of dreamy 4AD pop and dance-infused art rock, like Modern English meets HEALTH. Fun. But like the  crowd, we were there to see the original lineup of Big Audio Dynamite play in L.A. for the first time in ages (following Coachella and a warm-up show at the Roxy). Naturally, most of the set came from the first four albums, beginning with “Medicine Show.” On album, B.A.D.’s songs could sound like meandering pastiches but in concert it was clear that they are a band with loads of instrumental give-and-take and musical texture. There were heavy electronic, hip-hop, and reggae elements and beats–and bordered on jamming at times–but the band rocked.  “This is not cuff-links music,” Mick Jones drolly announced as he rolled up his sleeves before the band launched into “C’mon Every Beatbox.” Traces of his swagger are still visible, but he clearly has traded in his scowl for a smile.

Filmmaker/musican/toaster/DJ Don Letts cuts loose

When I saw Jones play with Carbon/Silicon in 2007, and even got to interview him, I was struck by how happy he was to be playing with friends and how humble and affable he was in person. It was the same way last night. His chatting between songs sounded more appropriate for a tea than a concert setting. Alluding to the current riots in his hometown, the co-writer of “London’s Burning” thought out loud something like, “I would say something, but I don’t know anything about it.” He added that he wished he were there, though. By the time the band played the encores, either the mix got trashed or the high-end speakers were seriously blown out as the songs got louder and heavier. Jones introduced “The Bottom Line” as the first song B.A.D. wrote together, adding how nothing has changed since then. It’s true. The song’s gloomy-but-hopeful economy-related chorus is as current as its mixing of genres is ahead of its time.

With Carbon/Silicon at The Troubadour in 2007

I’m not the most impartial judge, but I went to the show with quite high expectations that easily surpassed by the band’s ace musicianship, unmissable sense of playfulness, and (still) right-on lyrics. I was lucky enough to see The Only Band That Matters’s last concert with Mick Jones at the US Festival and Carbon/Silicon‘s first show in the U.S. Finally catching B.A.D. helped fill a gap, although it it didn’t bring closure. C/S are supposed to carry on after Big Audio Dynamite concludes the reunion circuit… Yes, Jones is a geezer, but he’s still one of my punk rock heroes and he still delivers the goods. See B.A.D. tonight in Orange County or tomorrow night in San Francisco before they head back to the U.K.