I saw Badbadnotgood at a small outdoor club in KL last night, with 2 of my kids who are huge fans. We first saw them earlier in March at Java Jazz, so I had some idea on what to expect. Some of my comments here are negative. So, if you are a die-hard fan, you might want to skip this review and head to my other blog postings.
These white boys, from Canada I think, play a mix of jazz, hip-hop and electronica. That’s according to the bio on the organiser’s website. In the days of old, we would’ve described their music as jazz-rock or jazz-fusion. Then, we had Return To Forever, Brand X, Bruford etc. There are 4 of them – on drums, keys, bass and sax. They don’t do vocals, except on their side projects where they collaborate with mainly black artists, including Frank Ocean (impressive!). The drummer guy looks like the bandleader and did most of the talking in between songs.
These guys are technically proficient – accomplished musicians all. But, just like the first time I saw them, I felt there was something missing. It’s a little like you’re having this great meal at a restaurant, but feel like there’s something missing in the recipe – not enough spice. In the case of BBNG, to me, the one big thing that was missing was ‘soul’. Their music is all clever, speedy and pitch-perfect, but it lacks feeling. It’s the difference between Joe Cocker singing “With A Little Help From My Friends” versus The Beatles’ original.
I realize I’m treading on sensitive territory here, but discussions about music are touchy anyway, just like politics, or even football! Anyway, back to the ‘soul’ element, they could fix this by adding/substituting with 1 or 2 black musicians, particularly in the rhythm section – the bass and drums. Take a look at Return To Forever – they had Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drums playing with white guys Chick Corea on keys and Al DiMeola on guitar. That combination worked like magic. Check out RTF’s “Romantic Warrior”, which is probably the best jazz-fusion album ever.
I also feel that they could use a little help in their compositions. I know they could do an outstanding job executing any song thrown to them, but you still have to have a great song in the first place. Apart from all the tunes in the RTF’s album above, check out Bruford’s “Beelzebub” and you might see where I’m coming from. See the other thing that’s missing from many of BBNG’s tunes are that their typical song lack a climax, or a resolution that addresses the starting premise of the song – see RTF’s “Spain” to understand what I mean by this. One quick way for these boys to solve this problem would be to do cover tunes of great jazz standards – I’d venture “Take Five” or Weather Report’s “Birdland”. Better still, if you’re a band playing in foreign places, you should attempt a local tune to win over the crowd. I hear Bruce Springsteen does this often. I woulda done P. Ramlee’s “Getaran Jiwa” last night.
Anyway, just one more negative comment – their interaction with the crowd coulda been better. Here’s a tip – look at the people in the crowd in the eyes, play with them, cajole, flirt with them, show them that you are having fun – that should be in every band member’s job description.
Having said all this, dear Badbadnotgood, we all had a great time last night. Thank you. And rest assured, if you happen to be in our neighbourhood again, I’d gladly pay good money to see you guys. Cheers!