With the sad passing of Captain Beefheart late last year there has been resurgence in the popularity for his music. The Magic Band, Beefhearts former band, reunited in 2001 without Beefheart who retired from music in 1982. The Magic Band played a one-off intimate gig in The Button Factory performing the music they and Beefheart created from 1967’s Safe As Milk onwards. John “Drumbo” French took over on vocals, harmonica as well as his original position of drums. He was joined by Denny “Feelers Rebo” Walley on slide guitar, Mark “Rocket Morton” Boston on bass and Eric Klerks on guitar.
Beefheart was one of the great gems from Rock’n roll history. He was a genuine artist and he constantly used his creativity in a variety of outlets producing endless paintings, poetry, lyrics and music. It was great to finally experience his music performed live. I have been a fan for many years but have never managed to catch them live and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, it was not what I was expecting at all. There were many instrumentals, solos and minutes of just pure music. Craig Bunch joined the band as an extra drummer who expertly recreated the intricate polyrhythmic patters from the albums, with Drumbo sitting in for some of the instrumental passages.
They played an eclectic variety of songs and fans of the band were not left disappointed. There were incredible performances of “Steal softly through the snow” “Diddy wah diddy”, “Kandy Korn”, “Click Clack”, “Electricity” and “Big eye beans from Venus. They played from a variety of albums from 1967’s Safe as milk right up to 2008’s critically acclaimed “City of refuge”. Beefheart was a real performer who took on shamanic elements at times in his performances. Drumbo certainly honoured that intent in his performance, capturing and casting the energy of the music back on the audience.
The Magic Band and Beefheart created a legacy, and I’m so glad I got to witness The Magic Band live while they are still going strong. In technical terms they were amazing musicians, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performance of that calibre before. It seemed I wasn’t the only one who thought so either as anyone I talked to said they had been blown away by what they witnessed in pure joy and celebration Drumbo left us with a quote from his old captain “This is the most fun you can have with your clothes on”.