captain beefheart electricity



saturday 01.11.80 AMSTERDAM holland PARADISO

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stan rijven - trouw - 3 november 1980


far beyond the limited powers of observation of all those who automatically co-ordinate the conception pop music to 'hilversum 3' or the 'tros top-50' (dutch music radio station and hit chart respectively - t.t.). the réally interesting and innovative developments in pop take place. when it comes to innovation, the mass media - and hence the public opinion too - as it is just easily rock forward at a safe distance behind the topics. that fear for the unknown rather will always remain in existence.

yet it won't do harm to mention it by time and while - for example at this moment, now that the outlines of a new order in pop music start to take shape more clearly. what wittingly or unwittingly inspired bands from this 'avant-gardistic' school often can be reduced to the pioneering work the american fine artist and musician don van vliet - a youth friend of frank zappa and better known as captain beefheart - already did in mid sixties with his first version of the magic band.

this weekend the still not institutionalised beefheart (whose dutch origin just should have titillated the chauvinism - if present) played holland for the first time in exactly five years. true, the performance he then gave at the concertgebouw was weak, but saturday the specialist on surrealistic use of word, vision and sound properly retaliated for that at a sold-out paradiso. just like beefheart by means of his most recent, eleventh elpee 'doc at the radar station' already had proven - contrary to what was thought - that he hadn't unlearned his pranks which are far ahead of their time (according to some: tóo far).

captain beefheart - live picture 'amsterdam, holland, paradiso' concert 011180 - trouw 031180


the magic band which accompanied him consisted of all new faces, including the young richard snyder who seems to know beefheart's repertoire by heart since he was eleven. thus, reason enough - as the story goes - to take him on straight away.

beefheart's work still heavily focuses on the blues and the experimental jazz. the raw, torrid presentation with which he provides vocals to the complex pandemonium his magic band worked up, can only be compared with that of kevin coyne, and david thomas of 'pere ubu' (both unfortunately also merely known to insiders). the rhythmic changes are absolutely unpredictable.

this restless jolting pokes fun at all the ruling musical ideas, drives people with unaccustomed ears stark mad on the spot, and that's just as it should be. besides the title track of his debut elpee 'safe as milk' (spot what's wrong here - t.t.). beefheart - with his textbook at hand - played relatively much work from his latest elpee 'doc at the radar station', especially at the beginning of the concert.

which - if he wasn't involved in a half-drunken dispute with the audience - included good performances of 'hot head', 'ashtray heart', 'dirty blue gene', 'best batch yet', 'sheriff of hong kong' and the instrumental contribution by snyder (he must take him for someone else - t.t.), 'flavor bud living'. further: the title song of the penultimate elpee '(shiny beast /) bat chain puller' and in the encore the instrumental 'suction prints' from the same album.

after which the captain, like an eccentric professor, took up his papers and walked out of the lecture-room. now that he has freed himself from his contractual problems and disengaged himself from the downward artistic line (which perhaps resulted from it), beefheart again is alive and kicking. as mentioned, his influence still holds.

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