captain beefheart electricity

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the MAGIC BAND reunion

THIS is BAND #4 live - go to the main page


monday 28 june 2004 HIGHBURY england THE GARAGE
attendance: ? [capacity: 650]
cancelled tuesday 29 june 2004 HIGHBURY england THE GARAGE

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skif - vanity project #11 - paper edition: autumn/winter 2004:

I can see all the arguments against this. Sure, a Magic Band without its Captain is not quite the draw it could be, but with Don Van Vliet now 22 years into musical retirement, some of us younger fans now get to at least glimpse the majesty of live Magic. Besides, to cast this reunion aside as a glorified tribute act is to devalue the players' contribution to the music as, despite some perceptions, this was no one-man show.

However at no stage did this current formation perform together on stage or in the studio with the Captain. While Mark 'Rockette Morton' Boston and John 'Dumbo' French both had long associations, including the Trout Mask Replica experience, Gary Lucas enters through the Ice Cream For Crow back door and Denny 'Feeler's Reedo' Walley fits snugly between the eras.

This however adds strength as, with perhaps the exception of debut single 'Diddy Wah Diddy', there is some personal involvement with each tune. What really startles (and this should not affect the view of the Captain's genius) is that John French does not just offer a pale imitation behind the mic, rather that his vocals magnificently mirror Don's strength and range. This is none more evident than when, as Rockette Morton changes a bass string, Drumbo fills the void with stirring unaccompanied hobo poetry a la Van Vliet.

The music sounds pristine also with Trout Mask Replica stuff, like Steal Softly Thru Snow, making a lot more sense when heard live. All very impressive, but when Electricity kicks in, when The Floppy Boot Stomp rises from nowhere, when they hit the coda of Circumstances: oh my f***** god!

What makes this gig stand out for me is that usually the morning after a great show, the whole experience feels forever gone and perhaps with hindsight was not as amazing as the atmosphere made it. However this gig continues to augment itself in my mind as it all clicks together to just how extraordinary it was. Typical of all things Magic I suppose.

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tim dellow - rockfeedback - 140704:

Imagine being 'the news' as in 'HUEY LEWIS and the news'. Devalued, a mere backing-band to the genius that everyone's watching: 'Shut up, play your part and be thankful I let you be on my record'. Now imagine, that your boss is the ultimate cult figure. A true genius that beat you into playing his overtly eccentric music, refusing to let you leave the rehearsal room for two whole months. Then imagine losing him, not to death, but to a disease that renders him incapable of producing music.

Ridiculed at the time, Captain Beefheart's work has now, correctly, been declared some of the most important recorded music ever. EVER. The Magic Band, although rolling in its line-up, translated the sketches of brilliance into tight, prophetic records that delight and frustrate in equal measure. And now, for their dues, they are touring. And it's utterly worthwhile.

John 'Drumbo' French, the oldest surviving member and obvious ringleader, jumps in, centrestage. Looking good for his age is an understatement, this guy is a brick shithouse. Towering over the audience, like a muscular, crazed Dennis Hopper with a handlebar 'brace yourself, boy' moustache. Yeah, no-one's gonna start any beef with that guy.

His carnivorous urges are tempered by the first song, throwing himself into a Beefheart homage, tearing at the poetry like fresh meat and spitting out the bones at the audience. The rest of the band takes a while to adjust, but when they get into it, they are perfection. Denny 'Feeler's Reedo' Walley, the poor sod who only featured on one album, that was scrapped and locked in the vaults (bat chain puller - t.t.), plays tribute to the mighty Zoot Horn Rollo (aka bill harkleroad - t.t.), whose partner in crime is present, the holiday-hat cowboy who is Gary Lucas, and of course, the cheeky grinned, lovably obese bassist Mark 'Rockette Morton' Boston.

'As you all know. I'm a drummer, and so as not to offend you, I'm going to get back to that,' bellows the beef 'Drumbo', before replacing the stand-in session guy and knocking seven shades of shite out of rhythms you will never understand. Doesn't mean you can't enjoy them, though.

Each song is presented to the old 'used to do a lot of acid' hippies, that make up the audience and say things like 'god, i hate all these old 'i used to do a lot of acid' hippies', by Drumbo, telling us the title and the album it's off so we can scurry home and listen to the original on our vinyl-only collectable discs.

A mid-set, emotive reading of two of Beefheart's spoken-word pieces fill up the room, as if he has become a mediator for the incapacitated legend, conveying his last wishes to the assembled séance, shattering the psychic glass as he once did microphones.

This is where it gets sad. and this is where I'm talking to you motherf**ker. The audience is obsessed, taken aback by this unique music that has changed their lives. But they're a dying breed, and there weren't that many of them left in the cavernous Garage. Now, the Magic Band isn't a charity case, but without them you would have no PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Public Image Ltd, Gang Of Four. This band has influenced everyone, from your influences, to the influencers of those influences. And you should get it fresh from the horse's mouth.

These guys will return, they have to, and they need to. And you have to go and see them. Because this band will save your life.

Rating: 5 stars

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[updated 171004]

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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo

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