[[this review was originally published in issue 1 of BELLY OF THE SHARK, a wonderful zine you can pick up for nowt from various music establishments in the south of england, including PUNKER BUNKER in brighton and various places in portsmouth… issue 1 out now, issue 2 in a couple of months]]
The Magic Band, Brighton, Concorde 2, Friday 1st March 2013
Fuck the Beatles – the Magic Band are the most important group in the history of popular music, fact! Watching them live, though, it’s easy to forget their historical importance – but only because they’re just so dang good right now! Five humans, three of whom are of pensionable age, should not be able to make this sound. Young musicians take note: these men are old enough to bang your gran (and I reckon they would, I’ve seen her, she’s hot, real sweet…); yet they’re most probably more radical than you, more imaginative than you, better than you in just about every way that matters. Consider that a challenge…
When the omni-talented John ‘Drumbo’ French sings “the black paper between a mirror breaks my heart that I can’t go” over a patchwork cacophony of broken heart-beats and shattered, scratchy guitar dissonances, there’s no arguing with him. OK, Drumbo isn’t Beefheart, but he’s a stone’s throw from the Captain. Close your eyes and it’s Don van Vliet you hear.
Taking to the stage at the Concorde 2, there’s no sign of the inaccessibility too often associated by some with the music of Beefheart and his occasional pal and collaborator Frank Zappa. From the very start, Drumbo, undaunted by a few minor technical problems, is completely at home chatting to his audience, swapping banter, jokes, insults. But when the band starts, exploding into My Human Gets Me Blues, the Magic Band is simply on a different level.
No, they don’t do the easy stuff. There’s no Dropout Boogie or Call on Me in this set. In fact, they play nothing at all from Beefheart’s foot-stomping, 1967 debut Safe as Milk – more’s the pity. Most of the set is drawn from later albums such as Clear Spot and The Spotlight Kid – and, of course, the inimitable Trout Mask Replica. I have to admit, I was craving Electricity and Zigzag Wanderer – but don’t think for a second that I’m complaining. Hair Pie: Bake One followed Hair Pie: Bake 2. Big Eyed Beans From Venus blew the collective consciousness of the audience and all their distant cousins out of this solar system. On what grounds could a reasonable man complain?!
It’s a shame, of course, that the world has lost Don van Vliet – but it’s reassuring to see that this ship refused to sink with her Captain. “And the pantaloon duck, white goose neck, quacked: