SOUL BRAINS and DJ JELLY at the Opera House (735 Queen East), tonight (Thursday, December 13). $20. 416-870-8000, 416-466-0313.
The Bad Brains' road to reunion has been anything but smooth. In fact, given their history, if the legendary hardcore Rastas now going under the Soul Brains name make it onto the Opera House stage tonight (Thursday) in one piece and without crockery being thrown, it'll be astonishing.In the decade since the original Bad Brains blew apart, the Washington, DC, punk pioneers' string of comebacks has been riddled with setbacks and self-destruction.
The much-hyped 1995 reunion album, God Of Love, tanked and ended up relieving the group of their name, with Maverick Records claiming ownership and the group humiliatingly forced to call themselves Soul Brains.
Then a spot opening a Beastie Boys arena tour didn't get far when volatile singer HR put the band's manager in hospital on the first day of the tour. A 1996 Kansas show that left a fan with a fractured skull after being brained by HR was the final straw -- until this latest reunion.
There are promising signs that the incendiary dub punks are getting their business together. A new song, On Like Popcorn, is available for download at www.soulbrains.net, and there is the promise of a new album in 2002.
For a band who earned their reputation onstage, though -- including a legendary 1989 show at the Concert Hall -- the question of whether Bad Brains/Soul Brains are truly back will only be answered live. This is a band that redefined hardcore music, pairing roots reggae with sheer aggression and inspiring bands like the Beasties in the process.
If HR -- he of the onstage backflips -- and the foursome can hold it together, it could be the show of the year.
Knowing their track record, though, I wouldn't bet the Christmas savings on it.