Jim Dyson, Getty Images While there are those who still breath a sigh of…
- Posted on Apr 20th 2011 12:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images
Following performances last Thursday in Los Angeles and Saturday at Coachella, BAD stopped Tuesday night at New York City's Roseland Ballroom for the last of three planned US shows. The band played about a dozen songs in 90 minutes, mixing hits with misses and reminding the audience why its finer moments are worth remembering.
Looking mobster-sharp in a pinstripe suit and oversize old-man sunglasses, Jones was jovial and chatty -- all smiles, flouncy steps and self-effacing stage banter. Moving chronologically through the band's first four albums -- the ones he recorded with the reunited original lineup -- he poked fun at a legacy he knows can't compete with the Clash's.
"Terrible third-album crisis, even worse than the second," Jones said as he introduced 'Just Play Music,' a minor hit from 1988's 'Tighten Up, Vol. 88.' "In those days, if you lasted three albums, they would notice you. We had to get to that stage before we could play this song."
As it happens, BAD hasn't quite gotten back to the point where it can play 'Just Play Music,' and midway through, the five musicians seemed to pull in different directions. That can happen when you're mixing live drums and guitars with synths, samples and other sound effects, many of which were provided by Don Letts, the acclaimed filmmaker behind the Clash's 'Westway to the World' documentary.
On 'E=MC 2,' one of the encore tunes, the band fell out of sync midway through the first verse and was forced to stop and restart. Jones shrugged it off, taking to heart the message behind 'Other 99,' a song about accepting imperfections he'd sung earlier in the set.
"It's good when this happens," Jones said of the miscue. "It's character-building."
The only serious moment, such as it was, came during 'Sightsee M.C.!' an uncommonly hard-hitting track about life in inner-city London. The song originally appeared on BAD's sophomore album, 'No. 10, Upping Street,' and was produced and co-written by Jones' former Clash bandmate Joe Strummer.
"He's up here with us tonight," Jones said of the iconic singer, who died in December 2002.
If Strummer was in the house, he, like everyone in the two-thirds-full ballroom, was heartened to see Jones return for the second encore wearing a Les Paul guitar, the "heart-attack machine" he favored back in his punk-rock youth. Jones and the Clash always had a special relationship with New York City, and for a second, it seemed he might favor the audience with an oldie -- perhaps 'Train in Vain' or 'Should I Stay or Should I Go.'
"We've run out of original-band material," Jones said. "So we've gone into Stonehenge territory."
What followed wasn't a Clash tune, but it might have been the next best thing: the 1991 single 'Rush,' BAD's one and only entry into the US Top 40. The group played it with a pulsating techno beat, omitting the comedic middle section, which includes a Peter Sellers sample taken from Fred Flange's 1959 song 'You Keep Me Swingin.'
On the 'Rush' single, Sellers is made to mock Mick's vocals -- "I wish I could sing like that" -- and present a kind of old-guard criticism of rock 'n' roll: "The only thing that matters these days is rhythm and melody." It's a clever use of sampling, but if Jones was keen on laughing at his own shortcomings while justifying BAD's musical approach -- which, of course, is all rhythm and melody -- he hardly needed Sellers' help.
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