The Magic Band
(Under the Bridge, London SW6 1HS. 16th March. Preview by Chris Parker)
I should say, right from the off, that although I’m now a fully paid-up jazz snob, ’twas not ever thus; in my late teens and early twenties I listened to nothing but rock and folk music, and to this day, my two favourite gigs (in any genre) are Little Feat at the Rainbow in the mid-1970s (supporting the Doobie Brothers, due to a massive record-company miscalculation of the bands’ relative popularity in London) and … Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band in Liverpool a couple of years earlier.
This Lancashire appearance of a man who was by then (to me, at least) a legendary figure (he’d just released one of my all-time top albums, Clear Spot, but I’d been fascinated by his music from Safe as Milk and Strictly Personal onwards) was an almost dream-like experience, although at this distance what stands out most clearly in my memory is Rockette Morton, cigar firmly clamped in his teeth, striding about the stage laying down thunderous bass lines.
Flash forward thirty-odd years, to Shepherd’s Bush: the Captain himself no longer toured, but the Magic Band (or prominent members of it anyhow: Morton, John French, Denny ‘Feelers Rebo’ Walley and Gary Lucas) had re-formed to play his compositions, from ‘Mirror Man’ to ‘Big-eyed Beans from Venus’, with the Van Vliet vocals (extremely competently) performed by French.
You don’t have to take my word for the authenticity and power of this concert; see for yourself here. Or, even better: get down to Under the Bridge on 16 March and hear Walley, Morton and French, plus guitarist Eric Klerks and drummer Craig Bunch, celebrate the music of a true original.