Although Bad Brains was the most influential hardcore punk band of its time, footage of its dynamic live performances is scarce. So MVD's announcement that it was adding a Bad Brains DVD to its growing collection caused a minor frenzy. Live At CBGB captures Bad Brains during Christmas 1982's three-day stint at the legendary New York punk club (back then, considered just another Bowery shithole), prior to the release of 1983's seminal album Rock For Light. By December '82, the all-black quartet had begun experimenting with reggae (a reflection of their newfound Rastafarianism), a 180-degree contrast from the blistering, technical hardcore they were pioneering. That experimentation eventually proved tumultuous, but that lay in the future. Although the energy drains from the room when Bad Brains performs reggae songs (only four here), the manic electricity of songs like "How Low Can A Punk Get," "Riot Squad," and "At The Movies" makes up for it.
Although no Bad Brains footage can live up to the legend that has proliferated over the years, Live At CBGB comes close. During "We Will Not," kids constantly clamber onstage to sing along or dive off, especially during "At The Movies," but the band remains in the zone, unfazed. Those moments provide a real sense of what Bad Brains was like in its prime. Twenty-four years later, it's still something to behold.