Something a little different to my usual output: a review of legendary outfit Big Audio Dynamite's reunion gig in New York City. Even here, though, the politics of the Middle East intrudes. Here's an excerpt:
For a short time, it seemed like this gig was going to be all about identity and politics and identity politics. Next up was "Beyond the Pale," another deeply personal composition in the tradition of earlier Jones tracks like "Stay Free" and "I'm Not Down," in which he sings about his Russo-Jewish roots. "I'm half Welsh and half Russian," he explained, by way of an introduction.
Then came a brief interlude when the focus shifted to Libya. Jones told us that he'd done a radio interview earlier in the day. The presenter had asked him why he was supporting Gadhafi. This was, he continued, a shocking accusation that was completely unfounded. To prove his pro-rebel credentials, he dedicated the next number to Omar al Mukhtar, a teacher of the Qu'ran who became the leader of the Libyan resistance to Italian colonization in the early twentieth century. Al Mukhtar, canonized as as the "Lion of the Desert," had a grandson who was presently, Jones reported, fighting with Libyan rebel forces. Only then did BAD launch into "A Party," a song originally written as an indictment of South African apartheid.
I was, I must confess, a little bemused at this point. In part, because al Mukhtar's legacy has been embraced by both Gadhafi and various Islamist currents but not, so far as I know, by purveyors of groove. In the main, because I couldn't believe that I was contemplating such issues at a BAD gig. While Jones was never a vacuous celebrity type, he was also the one member of The Clash who despised the posturing of ultraleft groups like the Socialist Workers Party and never apologized for his rock star ambitions. Jones, don't forget, was the man whose petulant love song, "I'm So Bored With YOU," was hacked by Joe Strummer into the anti-American chant, "I'm So Bored With The YOU-S-A." And yet, here he was, delivering a political lecture of such complexity that the audience missed their applause cue.
In the event, I'm glad to say that BAD's performance didn't descend into a series of isolated songs punctuated by political speeches. Jones has a charm that does not sit well with evangelism, and he knows it. A sleek figure who glides around the stage dressed in a gleaming white shirt and nattily-cut suit, he is first and last a musician, and a brilliant one.
If that tickles, go here to read the rest.