captain beefheart electricity

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the MAGIC BAND reunion

THIS is BAND #3 live - go to the main page


monday 7 april 2003 LONDON england SHEPHERD'S BUSH EMPIRE
an evening with the magic band
attendance: 2000 (sold out)

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PRESS REPORTS:


THE GUARDIAN 090403 england
by alexis petridis

life in captain beefheart's backing group, the magic band, was allegedly no barrel of laughs. according to some former associates, soya-bean dinners and 18-hour rehearsals were commonplace. when musicians left (as they inevitably did), beefheart would rubbish their abilities in the press. so you cannot blame his ex-sidemen for coming back and making an honest buck twenty-two years after their leader's retirement.

they bear little resemblance to the collection of oddballs on the sleeve of 'trout mask replica', the album that showcased their 'polyrhythmic' style (which sounds not unlike a blues band being pushed down a flight of stairs). it is many years since bassist rockette morton subsisted on soya beans. guitarist denny walley looks unnervingly like dave lee travis (we all know who that is, don't we? - teejo).

their audience, too, has changed. in the 1970s, beefheart shows famously drew 'the weirdest of the weirdos'. tonight, they seem to be performing before a meeting of the terry pratchett lookalike society. a handful of wives in attendance wear resigned expressions, broken by the occasional wince: every flurry of angular notes is stretching marital duty to its limits.

indeed, the instrumental half of the show gives little to smile about. many musicians have tried to copy beefheart's idiosyncratic hybrid of free jazz and blues, usually with disastrous results. this quartet can play it - a remarkable achievement in itself. but as they rumble through the shifting tempos of 'hair pie', it feels like a worthy display of technical bravado. there is a captain beefheart-shaped hole at its centre.

that changes when john 'drumbo' french takes to the microphone. his beefheart-esque growl injects the music with life. 'moonlight on vermont' is staggering in every sense, a threatening clatter of dark images and drums. by the closing track, 'big eyed beans from venus, people are gamely attempting to dance. as one fiftysomething windmills his arms frantically above his head, even his wife cracks a smile.

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magic band reunion - live picture 060403 alll tomorrow's parties - denny walley / feeler's reedo - by ralf nygård
dave lee travis ánd aged noddy holder lookalike denny walley

exclusive picture by ralf nygård shot at 060403 'all tomorrow's parties'




THE TIMES 100403 england
by john bungey
on paper this looked a suspect proposition: after all, who goes to see eric clapton's band sans eric? but captain beefheart's magic nand were always more than sidemen; these were players inducted into the secrets of the captain's musical universe during long rehearsals in which creative tensions could mean swinging fists. no musician sounded quite the same again. this five-piece line-up has briefly reconvened after encouragement from a longtime fan of the music, matt groening [...]. and, with the captain having changed career twenty years ago to paint, this packed show is a rare chance to revisit the sublime mysteries of 'the floppy boot stomp' and 'i'm gonna booglarize you baby'.

a muscular, defiantly odd bass solo from mark 'rockette morton' boston sets the tone before the group lurches into a string of old beefheart instrumentals, or hits rearranged as instrumentals. 'hair pie: bake 1', 'alice in blunderland' and 'abba zaba' whizz by. the band emits a vast, unlikely racket: imagine zz top playing free jazz. the drummer, john 'drumbo' french, juggles polyrhythms; boston's bass is a stop-start rumble as spindly lead lines and fractured chords are traded between guitarists gary lucas and denny walley. it's a reminder that no other band has done more to battle the tyranny of rock's four-four beat.

boston is paunchy, santa claus-bearded, grinning madly; walley, in an iron cross t-shirt, resembles an aged noddy holder (we all know who that is, don't we? - teejo). but lucas retains some rock star cool in ponytail and leather jacket. his solo, 'evening bell', is a web of spiderish invention. but elsewhere much of the detail of these intricate free jazz / rock / blues constructions is lost in the murk of the empire's soupy acoustics.

just as it looks as if instrumentals aren't going to be enough to sustain a show, drumbo announces he will sing (another beefheart alumnus, robert williams, takes over on drums). incendiary performances of 'click clack' and 'sun zoom spark' then demonstrate that beyond the weirdness of 'trout mask replica', beefheart's true métier was as a great white bluesman. they end with 'big eyed beans from venus'; thousands of middle-aged gents go wild. he may say he has renounced music, but someone should send the captain a tape.

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magic band reunion - live picture 070403 shepherd's bush empire, london - denny walley / feeler's reedo - england 010703 mojo
denny walley (with original paste-over. i'm sorry)

MOJO #116 010703 england
by mark paytress

Sans Captain, a makeshift Magic Band returns to some of the most difficult music ever made.

a beefheart show without the captain is not as daft as it sounds. after all, the issue of authorship has always muddied the music he recorded with his various magic bands, five members of which are on-stage tonight. here too, are the children of 'trout mask replica', a little older, greyer, and disappointingly male. happily, magic triumphs over tragic, a testament to the musicians' endeavour and the realisation that this work need not remain in aspic to retain its mystique. that's not to say the evening passes entirely without reservation….

mark boston opens the show with a quarrelsome, virtuoso display to confirm that time has done little to diminish his dexterity. still amazingly elastic, though somewhat more bulbous, he unleashes a floor-shaking cacophony that heralds the arrival of the rest of the band, who duly unfurl the full canvas with 'my human gets me blues', the first of several triumphant raids on 'trout mask replica'.

the first half of the show is entirely instrumental, and as our brains perform somersaults, our bodies start to twitch in that on-a-tightrope-over-niagara way beefheart's music necessitates. there's a noticeable gear change when john french vacates the drum stool (robert williams steps in) and takes centre stage for 'the floppy boot stomp'.

the captain's most loyal lieutenant, he stalks the stage like a caged beast, pointing and growling in an impressive imitation of the big boss man. the evening's mood transforms from reverence to carnivalesque, reaching its inevitable climax of 'big eyed beans from venus', still the captain's most accessible rock moment.

magic band reunion - live picture 070403 shepherd's bush empire, london - john french / drumbo - england 010703 mojo
john french
caption: a beefheart show without the captain? now that's magic.

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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo

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