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Irving Plaza; New York, NY; 03/03/99

Reviewed by Gooch

One of the most anticipated nights in underground music history finally arrived. After dozens of releases, several record labels, and countless breakups, the Bad Brains ...oops!... pardon me - the Soul Brains decided to get together and give it yet another try.

Who could ask for a more diverse crowd on this freezing, rainy NYC evening? Lined up against the outside walls of this most historical venue, one could see infinite cliques of punks, hardcore kids, metal-heads, rastas, hip-hoppers, poseurs, and some guys who looked way too old for all this. The intensity of the event was thickening and I would have been damned to miss it due to a mid-term exam the next day.

As the lights dimmed just seconds before Soul Brains took stage, the crowd broke into a massive screech, vibrating the floor with vigor. HR stood before us, looking happier than I ever saw him, and the crowd's volume level increased (if that was at all possible). HR somehow managed to allay the chaos and said in an easygoing tone, “Good evening. We are the Soul Brains / Human Rights. And we have come here tonight to bring you some music.” Dr. Know simply played the opening chord to “Attitude” and immediately manic frenzy spread like a forest fire from the bar to the very stage. Anyone who had not planned on moshing that evening was sorely disappointed! One guy literally flew way over my head and, by the way, I'm six feet tall.

From there on in, it was every man for himself. The “hits” just kept on coming: “Sailin’ On,” “Right Brigade,” “Pay to Cum,” “At the Movies,” etc. Believe me when I say that the crowd did not tire throughout the evening! Every now and then, the band would pause to soak up the energy and praise being fed to them.

HR was a lot more contained than usual. He stood in the same idle spot before the microphone all night in his priest-like garments and was all smiles. No dancing, no flipping, and no ugly faces. I guess he has calmed down since the old days. But don't worry, the energy is still there! Earl Hudson towered above the band on his platform and, like his brother, did not abandon station at all. How can a drummer create such incredible, monstrous sounds without going crazy? Darryl Jennifer and Dr. Know were just tearing it up! Headbanging, leaping, and just basically doing their thing without ever missing a note! They make playing guitar look so easy! I hate it when people do that!

After half an hour of intense, bone-crushing music, however, the band mellowed to a harmonious reggae set. The audience joined in - singing, dancing merrily and smoking in their own little spots. Brains jammed to “I and I Survive,” “I Love Jah,” “How I Love Thee,” and others. The most memorable moment of that set was when an audience member threw HR a spliff. He picked it up and said, “I’ll save this one for later!” Darryl nodded in approval.

Of course they could not possibly consider finishing the evening without some preaching and playing “I Against I.”

Even twenty minutes after the set was completed, fans stood in their spots anticipating the Brains for an encore. But unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

Though I have seen and/or heard millions of live Bad Brains videos / albums before, I really think this is the best they ever sounded together. If their sound was any better, I would have thought they were lip-syncing.

For more information, visit the band's website at

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Copyright 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:17 -0400.