THE MAGIC BAND
Live at Under The Bridge
Captain Beefheart was a one-off….by turns funny, inscrutable, kindly, driven, antagonizing, blues-soaked, inventive, cussed, philanthropic, cold. I met him briefly once, at Tolworth when due to a delay in arrival of the Van Vliet party from the States, the Toby Jug venue gave us punters a catch-up double-bill of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band AND John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers featuring Keef Hartley and Mick Taylor. That’s how things were back then…
So here we are in 2013 and a chance for Sargeant Jnr to come along and see what I have been on about. Not only that, but in one of the country’s best musical experience rooms, Under the Bridge at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground complex.
Drumbo, sporting an Our Man From Havana cream suit ensemble announces that acknowledging they are not often here in London, The Magic Band will play two sets AND hang out with the audience between them…no thuggish Kanye West style security posse for THESE guys. The Beefheart music is revived and delivered with great elan, skill, variety and most of all blazing roaring gravelly power. The crowd can scarcely believe their luck, the performance is stunning. The group look devastatingly cool and confident, all except the nervous-looking Eric Clerks who looks like a press-gang victim and plays with such concentration he looks about to implode at any given moment, his pewter Strat whipped and scraped deep into the maelstrom of notes. Not so the cool cat Denny Whalley, ever the regal slide-stroking gent I often saw with Zappa’s touring bands. Rockette Morton looks like a veteran painter from San Diego but plays as though snatching the arcane bass note patterns from drifting gas from Jupiter. In the break he taps my astronomic themed T-shirt with a smile and hisses approval. Apart from a stint on the drums to verify his nickname John Drumbo French takes care of the booming snarling vocals plus some harp puffing and sax runs . Most of the drumming is by Craig Bunch, whose attack and grip is outstanding. The material is a deft mix of rhythmic jagged beats and outright weirdness, blues workouts and alien poetry, foot-tapping tempo’s and twisting atonal drifts. As ever it was….
It appears that Proper were filming this performance, I sincerely hope so ; everyone there would want a souvenir…..
So here’s the setlist, readers :
My Human Gets Me Blues
Low YoYo Stuff ( a grinding shuffle of a song)
Diddy Wah Diddy ( now what DID Herb Alpert of A&M think when he heard this ??)
When It Blows Its Stacks ( an evil lope )
Doctor Dark ( don’t you heavy metallers talk to me about ‘power’ )
On Tomorrow ( purposeful, trippy, electric )
Alice In Blunderland ( thrilling guitar runs heading skywards )
Hair Pie Bake 1
Steal Softly Through Snow ( utterly, stealthily beautiful )
Click Clack ( guitars on a collision course forging a sonic amnesty of sorts )
Floppy Boot Stomp
Moonlight On Vermont
Big Eyed Beans From Venus ( with Denny taking the long curling note ! )
After that, the group came back to perform a scorching ‘Electricity’, leaving the punters blitzed and grinning. Many had come from faraway places to see this and they’ll never regret the journey. The group love this room, it does their monstrous, tumbling delicacy proud