Big Audio Dynamite
Beautiful Days Festival
Cutting a dash, like an Ealing comedy gangster Mick Jones is rocking the rock n roll elder statesman look with considerable cool. Onstage with BAD he looks sharp and relaxed and his genuine joy at being here at Beautiful Days is shared with a huge enthusiastic crowd.
Jones has the rock n roll CV to die for, he was the key creative force in the beloved Clash, enjoyed a stint in Gorillaz and produced the Libertines- the key British guitar band of it’s time and had loads of other ‘moments’, oh and there was Big Audio Dynamite as well.
BAD were the band he put together after he was dumped from the Clash in 1982 that continued in the direction that the Westway Wonders would have done if Jones had remained at the helm. You are reminded of all this when you watch them live and then listen to the outakes bootleg from Combat Rock, ‘Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg’, a bootleg which captures the frenzied, creative overload of Jones and he band at the time with its endless electro ragas and early hip hop influenced ideas mashing into the punk idealogy- tuff city beat and the complex machine rhythms that were edited out of the final version of the album to make it the huge worldwide hit that it was.
Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg’ is a treasure trove of ideas, a fascinating take on New York street culture going through one of it’s genius meltdowns soaked up by rock n roll Mick from the Clash, the band whose quest to meld al the rebel musics of the world into one unholy work were nearly realised.
BAD were the continuation of this fascination and for a brief period were the most modern group in the world. Mick bought in Don Letts into the new band because he was mate who looked great and knew music inside out. Letts was already a key player on the British punk scene and couldn’t play keyboards, but what the fuck! he was an ideas man who helped create the core of the project. Adding a full band they sold lots of records and broke plenty of new ideas in that cross between hip hop, punk rock, films and sampling. It was an audio visual mind bomb and a key eighties band whose influence went right though everyone who was listening from UK pop to the Beastie Boys and back to the hip hop scene.
After BAD fell apart you didn’t see much of Mick on stage, he occasionally got up for one song with someone like Primal Scream and it seemed like he was taking a back seat, producing, bringing up the kids, stepping back, but thankfully he has gradually moved back into the limelight. His recent rock n roll museum was fantastic, a horded treasure trove of clothes (every Clash shirt- many of them like works of art by Clash seamstress Alex Michon) books and records that we all hoard ourselves but just far, far more of them and a valuable insight into a mind that is a clutter of rock n roll information. There was Carbon/Silicone- the buddies on the road band he put tougher with his original partner in crime in nascent punk crew London SS, Tony James ex Gen X, they released some great low key tunes and played ad hoc shows before Mick went off to do the Gorillaz world tour with Paul Simonon on bass- the closest we could possibly get to a Clash reunion, unless someone dared to ask Bruce Springsteen to front the three surviving members as some sort of tribute to the life-force that was Joe Strummer.
Mick looked like he was having a ball with the Gorillaz so it was a cool surprise that in January he had rounded up al the old droogs and put together the classic line up of BAD who, after four weeks of touring, hit the road to rapturous eruptions worldwide.
Headlining at Beautiful Days is the perfect gig for the band. The Levellers festival was built very much in the spirit of the Clash and any Clash related projects are guaranteed a lot of love here. Bad earn it, though, with a set that, unlike most forward music from decades gone does not sounds dated. There is a fantastic groove to what they do, the mixture of the breakbeats and Dreadzone’s Greg Roberts fantastic drumming makes each track a lesson in hypnotic grooves. They build and build and pull you in and you are lost in their rhythmic world.
The melodies are captivating with perfect Harmony singing from the band, it sounds particularly great when Mick’s nasally voice and Don Letts rich tones lock together as they hammer a repeated vocal line over and over, it’s a simple yet super effective trick that really works.
The band are having the time of their lives up there, it’s their infectious lust for life and sheer joy that translates to the whole field. Mick does all his guitar shapes from his neo- camp Chuck Berry shuffle to the bent arm guitar in the air thing that is reminiscent of prime time Clash Mick. He is grinning non stop and telling jokes between the songs- this is far more than a band knocking out the hits, it’s a rejuvenation and acceleration of the possibilities of pop in the hands of one of it’s great shapers. As charismatic as ever, Jones owns the stage with Don Letts cutting in for some chatting and toasting and his own brand of skanking, knotting up his endless dreads onto his head and punching in those samples from his keyboard.
They play all the classics and even slip a new song that not only is proof of moving forwards but also sounds as good as where they left off and is a good sign for maybe a potential album or however these forward thinkers plan on releasing new material.
BAD were once the future, they are now the now, everyone caught up with them and it’s time to enjoy the glory.