captain beefheart electricity




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

thursday 1 july 2004 LIVERPOOL england CARLING ACADEMY
attendance: ? [capacity: 1200]



marc le breton - bbc liverpool website - 050704:

along with pink floyd and frank zappa, beefheart's music is revered in certain liverpool quarters. as an influence it lurks within the fabric of many a local bands' sound, the latest being the zutons ('you will, you won't' bears more than a passing resemblance to the captain's 'dropout boogie').

unfortunately, mister beefheart (or don van vliet, as he is more commonly known now) turned his back on music for a life of painting and contemplation. fortunately for us his ex-band members feel as passionately about this music as the crowd clearly does, hence their appearance, which prompts one colleague to state: 'we are truly in the presence of kings'.

john 'drumbo' french, original drummer and longest-serving magic band member, steps into the great man's shoes and does a grand job of replicating the howls and vocal dexterity, eyeballing and pointing at several joyous audience members in the great tradition of the captain himself.

highlights here include set opener 'diddy wah diddy' (but which isn't an original beefheart song. how many times do i have to repeat this? - teejo) and a growling 'the smithsonian institute blues (or the big dig)'. mid-set, he takes up the drumming stool to give us instrumental takes of 'abba zaba' and 'my human gets me blues', which sound magnificent - even without the vocals.

special mention should be made to the rest of the band, particularly guitarist gary lucas and bassist mark 'rockette morton' boston who, although a little more bulbous, is no less fast than he was all those years ago when 'trout mask replica' was unleashed onto the world.

once john french returns to centre-stage, they truly begin to shine. 'electricity' sounds as frighteningly thrilling as ever, 'sun zoom spark' (note: not played in amsterdam - t.t.) does exactly what it says on the tin, 'grow fins' is sublime and 'click clack' recreates that train-a-rolling sound to perfection. after finishing on a stage shattering 'big eyed beans from venus', with the long lingering note that floats admirably supplied by denny 'feeler's rebo' walley, the band leaves to a rapturous applause and smiles all round.

the magic band - reunion - line-up #4 - john french / drumbo - live performance 010704 carling academy, liverpool, england - by chris taylor
john french / drumbo - picture by chris taylor

jimmy carl black, former zappa (and beefheart - t.t.)  drummer, once said that frank was good but 'if you want avant-garde, beefheart's the real thing'. judging by tonight's performance, if you need a little of the captain, the magic band are more than capable of supplying it.

mike chapple - liverpool daily post - 050704:

a magic band without the great captain beefheart? but what can you do when don van vliet, one of the most innovative rock frontmen has retired himself to a caravan in the desert to pursue his other career as a fine painter and, so it's rumoured, nurse a life-threatening illness.

however, those who turned up at the carling academy expecting the worst off a motley crew trading on the name of the most revolutionary of bands were in for one of the most pleasant surprises of their lives.

this magic band is formed from members spanning different periods and incarnations of the group: john 'drumbo' french on vocals, harmonica and drums; mark 'rockette morton' boston on bass; and the dual guitar dynamism of gary lucas and denny 'feeler's rebo' walley, who was also a frank zappa stalwart.

from the off there was no sign of this disparity in the family tree, though, as french drawled: 'this place has a reputation as a rowdy city and i just remembered why. so are you ready?' as some scally in the audience roared back: 'are you?', we were off, running through a myriad of complicated rhythms, riffs, run-around guitar solos, swampland growlings and mighty drumming - all the hallmarks of the great songs from the band's still unquenchably stunning catalogue.

the charismatic french was a revelation in the role of captain whose floppy boots no one would have thought could be filled by anyone else before this gig. the others were sensational, too, as they wheedled and weaved through the classics from album greats that stand the test of time such as 'safe as milk' and 'trout mask replica'.

there were lads young enough to be their grandchildren dancing to the songs that only supreme craftsmen groomed by the captain could provide. with power cut-off looming, the band timed it just right to triumph with a mighty climax performing two of their greatest numbers: 'moonlight on vermont' and, of course, 'big eyed beans from venus'.

grown men laughed and cried. this was mágic indeed.

the magic band - reunion - line-up #4 - denny walley / feeler's rebo - live performance 010704 carling academy, liverpool, england - by chris taylor
denny walley / feeler's rebo - picture by chris taylor

jared (glass-finger wannabee) - crud fanzines - ??0704:


support was laid on by a young lads band - the iconoclasts. i suppose them being a liverpool band accounted for them sounding mostly like a band from liverpool... they did have an eerie kind of 80's dark yet melodic sound though; with traces of echo & the bunnymen, funked up la's, the teardrop explodes, a bit of joy division even - they held court very well and they weren't too much to endure (even though the excitement of seeing the magic band was knotting me up inside!!!).

i don't know how a band like the magic band should come on stage but each of them just walked on, started checking their equipment, nodding, checking the audience and waited for john 'drumbo' french (who apologized for being late). drumbo did the quickest sound check ever with the multitude of sound-making ephemera present before him (mics, harmonicas, clanking-twisty whisk in a can type thing, etc) and they launched straight into 'diddy wah diddy'.

the audience participated well - and the band held their own! to say they were an eager audience is an understatement - we knew what we came to hear, and boy were we gonna hear it! rapturous applause was given in return for absolutely fantastic renditions of 'circumstances', 'sun zoom spark', 'alice in blunderland', 'mirror man', 'abba zaba', 'the floppy boot stomp', 'click clack' and 'when it blows its stacks' - to name a few highlights.

like a 'best of live' elpee, they hammered home their 'developed' angular surrealist blues numbers, with tight, snappy guitar playing from denny 'feeler's rebo' walley and gary lucas - the effect was incredible. big old mark 'rockette morton' boston thumped out complicated and thrumbling bass lines and michael traylor sat in on drums when drumbo took front of stage for bawling moody vocals, cracking harmonica and general atmospheric madness!

there was no 'should they have played without the captain? what will they sound like? is it the real thing?' vibe at all that night - it was purely about hearing and seeing the songs that previously one could only wonder 'how on earth do they play that???' being performed live. and judging by the faces not one person there was disappointed.

a strange feeling did overcome me when the band launched into 'eeeeeeeelectriiiiiiiiciiiiiiityyyyyyyyy' - i wasn't quite sure whether to laugh or cry; something really struck home and the rest of the audience must have felt it's power and responded. what a mind-blowing performance, what a track - worth the entrance fee alone. and when they played 'moonlight on vermont' the crowd went wild (er)....

the magic band - reunion - line-up #4 - john french / drumbo, denny walley / feeler's rebo - live performance 010704 carling academy, liverpool, england - by chris taylor
john french / drumbo - denny walley / feeler's rebo
picture by chris taylor

i had never seen so many people headbanging to songs written thirty years ago, it was fantastic; pu-re ma-gic! the final song was of course (well guessed) 'big eyed beans from venus' - what a cracking finish to a stompingly sweatily good night.

someone should have pointed out to the band however that when a liverpudlian shouts 'fuck off', he is merely expressing his excitement and amazement at the quality of the musicianship before him, and not asking them to leave. and it was one of those nights, you just couldn't believe what you were getting.

i hope they continue to tour their tortured and surreally poetic brand of the blues, and spread the word to those of us who never saw beefheart or even zappa. this is still the real thing, people!

[updated 071104]

click clack back to the magic band or return to the power station

captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo