The Magic Band The Cluny Newcastle 11 March 2013
I went to see the reformed Magic Band last night at the Cluny. The Magic Band reformed in 2003, minus Captain Beefheart (who sadly passed away in 2010). The current line-up includes members John French (aka ‘Drumbo’, who first joined the band in the 60s) on lead vocals and mean harp playing, ‘Rockette Morton’ (who was also with the Captain in the late 60s and early 70s) on bass and Denny Walley (aka ‘Feelers Rebo’ who joined the band during the 70s) on guitar. These three old-timers are joined by Eric Klerks on guitar and Craig Bunch on drums. My first surprise was how packed the place was. The Cluny was full of 50 and 60 somethings, largely but not exclusively male, who knew every word and gave the band a great reception. The second surprise was just how good the Magic Band of today are, and how true to the original they play the songs. Drumbo is a great front man and has the Captain’s vocals off to a T. I remember the first time I heard Trout Mask Replica, when it came out in the late 60s. I just couldn’t believe what was coming out of my stereo. The strange disjointed sounds were so different to anything else around at the time, and when you put on top of that Beefheart’s strange growls, you had an album the like of which had never been heard before. The music still sounds kind of weird today, but it remains clear how deeply routed in the blues it was, and how important a part of the music Drumbo and the others were. Oh, and it was just great to hear Diddy Wah Diddy live. If you are into Beefheart and you get the chance to see this band, do go along. Many thanks to Drumbo for signing my poster. Setlist: My Human Gets Me Blues; Low Yo Yo Stuff; Diddy Wah Diddy; Bass solo; When It Blows Its Stacks; Hot Head; Dr Dark; Circumstances; On Tomorrow; Alice in Blunderland; Suction Prints; Hair Pie Bake I; Steal Softly Thru The Snow; Owed T’Alex; Click Clack; Sun Zoom Spark; Moonlight on Vermont; Big Eyed Beans From Venus. Encore: Floppy Boot Stomp
Just remembered I also saw the Magic Band when they were touring as Mallard in 1976 or 1977 at the Mayfair and the Reading festival.
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
Newcastle City Hall 4th June 1974
Support from Henry Cow
The Captain completed a hat trick of visits to Newcastle City Hall with this 1974 concert. The line-up for The Magic Band had changed completely since their last UK visit; it seems there had been a fall out between the band and their captain. Beefheart quickly put together a new band to honour existing tour dates.The new Magic Band comprised Fuzzy Fuscaldo on guitar; Ty Grimes on drums; Del Simmons on saxophone; Dean Smith on guitar; Michael Smotherman on keyboards and Paul Uhrig on bass. Unfortunately they weren’t at all familiar with the intricacies and complexity of their predecessors’ material, and it showed. They were described by reviewers of the day as a “bar band”, or “The Tragic Band”, a moniker which stuck and is often used to describe Beefheart’s band of that period. The show consisted of a selection of Beefheart classics delivered more as twelve bar blues, than in their original format. Imagine Beefheart growling over the same soft rock boogie shuffle backing for each song, and you’ve just about got it. It was still an enjoyable show, but far removed from the magnificence of the 1972 tour. Support came from Henry Cow, who were very experimental and avant garde, as I recall. Unlike previous Beefheart gigs at the City Hall, I don’t think this show was very well attended. I saw Beefheart once more, at the 1975 Knebworth festival, on a bill headlined by Pink Floyd. The 1973 Magic Band regrouped as Mallard along with a new singer and toured the UK; I caught their show at Newcastle Mayfair in 1976. Beefheart was a truly unique artist, who is much missed, and I’m please I was lucky enough to see him a few times. A typical set list from the 1974 UK tour was: Mirror Man; Upon the My-Oh-My (which he performed on The Old Great Whistle Test during this visit); Full Moon Hot Sun; Sugar Bowl; Crazy Little Thing; Mighty Crazy; Sweet Georgia Brown; This is the Day; New Electric Ride; Abba Zaba; Peaches.
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
Newcastle City Hall 28th April 1973
I couldn’t wait to see Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band again after witnessing their magnificent 1972 performance at Newcastle City Hall. And it wasn’t long until they were back in the UK for another tour. The Magic Band line-up had changed slightly since their last visit in that Alex (pyjama) St Claire had replaced (the wonderfully named) Winged Eel Fingerling on slide guitar. This time the show was not as theatrical as the previous year, however the music was as mesmerising as ever, the setlist expanded slightly to include a good selection of tracks from throughout the Captain’s career including one of my favourites, “Electricity”, alongside tracks from the current album “Clear Spot”. The set was also considerably much more delta / werewolf growl blues than last time. However, this gig doesn’t stick in my mind as much as the 1972 concert. Fraid I can’t recall at all who the support act was (or if there was a support), and I don’t have a programme to help me. The setlist for the Nottingham show from the 19873 tour is listed as follows, I would assume that the Newcastle show was a similar set: Hair Pie Bake III; Suction Prints; Sue Egypt; Mirror Man; Low Yo Yo Stuff; Crazy Little Thing; Sifter Solo; Sugar ‘n’ Spikes; I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby; Electricity; Peon; I’m a King Bee; Click Clack; Alice in Blunderland; Nowadays a Womans Gotta Hit a Man. Encore: Big Eyed Beans From Venus; Golden Birdies
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band 5th April 1972 Newcastle City Hall
Support from Foghat
The Magic Band: Rockette Morton; Winged Eel Fingerling; Ed Marimba; Zoot Horn Rollo; Orejon
It was very cool to be into Captain Beefheart in the early 70s. Me, I got into him through Frank Zappa, and his vocals on “Willie the Pimip”, on the “Hot Rats” album. I then heard “Safe as Milk” and “Trout Mask Replica”. I was fascinated by the very strange sounds they made, so when he came to play at Newcastle City Hall, I bought a ticket straight away. It was one of the oddest, and best gigs, I have attended. I was sitting pretty close to the front, and I was surrounded by some of the wierdest looking hippy types that I’d seen at any gig. A guy sitting a few seats away from me had white hair down to his waste and spent the entire set rocking back and forth in his seat, swinging his long hair about. There was a strong smell of dope in the air. Beefheart’s show started with a performance from a ballerina and then a belly dancer. Rockette Morton took to the stage and played a manic extended bass solo. Soon he was joined by the rest of the Magic Band, and the Captain wearing a massive cloak, and singing in the deepest voice I had ever heard. The whole show was one of the most amazing things I have seen to this day. The band were all dressed outrageously, the music was amazing, and it was totally unlike anything I had heard before. And the Captain was just unbelievable. The set was pretty unfamiliar to me; it was by no means a greatest hits set. However, that didn’t matter. The whole show was just incredible: I was blown away by it all, and became a committed Beefheart fan that night. I was to see Beefheart on three further occasions, and he was great each time, but none of those gigs matched this first encounter with the Captain. Setlist: Bass Solo; When It Blows Its Stacks; Grow Fins; Click Clack; Hobo Chang Ba; I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby; Black Snake; Peon; Abba Zaba; Woe-Is-Uh-Me-Bop; Alice in Blunderland; Spitball Scalped a Baby. Encore: More. Support came from Foghat, who grew out of Savoy Brown and played some nice blues/rock/boogie. Although they were a UK band, they found success in the USA, and toured extensively in the States throughout the 70s, coming home only occasionally.