FART AT PLAY !
30 october 1980 MANCHESTER england APOLLO THEATRE
HI! HOWZABOUT A
max bell - magazine new musical express - 8th november, 1980
captain beefheart and his various magic bands have the habit of turning conventions on their heads. the essence of don van vliet's performance rests in its refusal to be obvious.
for that reason he manages to be inspiring when others strive to be ingratiating; his musicians are always rehearsed to balance improvisation within familiar settings. when the results are good they never seem easy; if the mix isn't quite attuned to the singer's mood they can baffle and confuse.
detractors of the van vliet sound and fury (there's anger in his songs and a lot of simple compassion) are happy to ridicule his music with charges of fraudulence, seeing the avant-garde as an intellectual's excuse. of course the singer never made those claims for himself.
before a half-full manchester apollo the current magic band stamped its own personality on a complete breadth of material although comparisons and rock history were the last thing on the mind. (the habit of demanding certain numbers at specific times is a stupid trait.)
picture by anton corbijn
eric drew feldman was first on, his bass solo for 'hair pie' an unaccompanied burst of savage noise. other magic band members strolled out. van vliet clutched a plastic bag from greenwich village, a folder full of interest, and a bottle of white wine to which he referred most frequently (although i think it just was mineral water - teejo).
ahead of the times they launched into 'nowadays a woman's gotta hit a man' with feldman moving to keyboards and the mellotron which van vliet is so determined to integrate into his sound. the double guitar front of jeff morris tepper and richard snyder began to lock onto the highly strung retorts that begin life as distortion and become hypnotic, van vliet twisting and spitting the words of 'ashtray heart' with a venom that was quite at odds with his in-between songs self.
'i get confused,' he mumbled after 'best batch yet' and then mooched off into a corner while drummer robert williams led the charges against 'safe as milk', still a vital stroke of modern blues with those idiosyncratic hungry qualities that the singer admires in howlin' wolf.
where other groups take a lull the magic band take off. gary lucas came on and played 'flavor bud living', its taut high-pitched finger picking attack stinging the skin like a swarm of bees. he returned later to recite 'one man sentence', a free form poem written for rolling stone in 1970.
the set veered hog wild, giving the lie to so called clįssic periods by being timeless rather than self-consciously contemporary, reminding the ears that in beefheart's book there was always a knowledge of those other new waves, the frenetic jazz styles of the '50s and the more basic rock 'n' roll that accompanied them. 'dropout boogie' was a good example of forces in collision.
everyone got something they wanted, even if they didn't get it the way they wanted it. van vliet gave echoes of his acknowledged tour de force, 'trout mask replica', with completely revamped versions of 'sugar 'n' spikes' and 'veteran's day poppy', two interpretations of love and hate. more up to date he played brief snatches of soprano sax with an amateur's enthusiasm rather than a professional's jaundiced skill, tapped and smashed the chinese gongs during a mesmeric 'sheriff of hong kong'.
the excitement inherent in this show, with its muted lights and absence of artificial pacing, became apparent when you realized that van vliet treats his songs with impromptu affection. the fact that a lot of people had to hear 'big eyed beans from venus' last, as if to round out the evening and give it reverential meaning was therefore irrelevant.
the magic band even kicked the dust off the obvious.
from usa 2004 art set don van vliet * riding some kind of unusual skull sleigh
picture by anton corbijn
* 1 BASS
SOLO 'hair pie' trout mask replica
* 2 NOWADAYS A WOMAN'S GOTTA HIT A MAN clear spot 1972
3 ABBA ZABA safe as milk 1967
* 4 HOT HEAD doc at the radar station 1980
* 5 ASHTRAY HEART doc at the radar station 1980
* 6 DIRTY BLUE GENE doc at the radar station 1980
7 BEST BATCH YET doc at the radar station 1980
* 8 SAFE AS MILK strictly personal 1968
* 9 FLAVOR BUD LIVING gary lucas guitar doc at the radar station 1980 instrumental
* 10 HER EYES ARE A BLUE MILLION MILES clear spot 1972
* 11 ONE RED ROSE THAT I MEAN jeff moris tepper guitar lick my decals off, baby 1970 instrumental
* 12 ONE MAN SENTENCE gary lucas 1970 poem
13 DOCTOR DARK lick my decals off, baby 1970
14 BAT CHAIN PULLER shiny beast (bat chain puller) 1978
* 15 MY HUMAN GETS ME BLUES trout mask replica 1969
* 16 SUGAR 'N' SPIKES trout mask replica 1969
17 VETERAN'S DAY POPPY trout mask replica 1969
18 DROPOUT BOOGIE safe as milk 1967
* 19 SHERIFF OF HONG KONG doc at the radar station 1980
20 KANDY KORN strictly personal 1968
* 21 SUCTION PRINTS shiny beast (bat chain puller) 1978 instrumental
* 22 BIG EYED BEANS FROM VENUS clear spot 1972
fifteen tracks from this performance have been brought together on the bootleg double ceedee LIVE 'N' RARE, but they are separated by songs from other live shows and sorted in a perfect alphabetical following order. so, to experience the gig somewhat correctly you should listen to cd1.03, 2.04, 2.02, 1.02, 1.08, 2.08, 1.10, 2.01, 2.06, 2.05, 2.03, 2.11, 2.09, 2.10 and 1.05 respectively - if you don't mind....
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theo tieman ©1995-2011
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