When ‘The Farewell Tour’ for The Magic Band was announced early this year, interest was overwhelming with tonight’s show selling out so quickly, another Manchester date was announced. Former Captain Beefheart musical director and drummer, John French, nicknamed ‘Drumbo’ by Don Van Vliet, AKA Captain Beefheart himself, leads out the latest incarnation of The Magic Band and fills in on vocals, with an alarmingly similar vocal style to his deceased predecessor.
We will be treated to two one-hour sets time, with an interval dividing. The venue fills quickly and you can feel the anticipation in the air.
As the quintet take to the stage, they waste no time in engaging the audience, opening with ‘Floppy Boot Stomp’ from 1978 album Bat Chain Puller. This is followed in quick succession by ‘Low Yo Yo Stuff’ and ‘25th Century Quaker’. ‘Hot Head’ from 1980 album Doc At The Radar Station ups the intensity with its infectious beat and a cover of Bo Diddley’s ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’ continues this theme and the room dances along happily.
Three tracks taken from probably their most famous album, Safe As Milk, are up next; ‘Dropout Boogie’, ‘Abba Zabba’ and ‘Autumn’s Child’. All three are superbly executed, with the groove emanating from the stage through the intoxicating guitar interplay from Eric Klerks and Max Kutner. A rendition of lesser known ‘Ant Man Bee’ is gratefully received before the strange sounds of ‘Bat Chain Puller’ see out the first half.
Set two is opened by two instrumentals, ‘Hair Pie: Bake 2’ and ‘Alice In Blunderland’, which see Drumbo take to his more familiar position of the drums, much to the delight of the crowd. ‘Steal Softly Thru Snow’ from 1969 LP Trout Mask Replica showcases the quality of the musicianship on stage, with its bizarre, seemingly improvised composition. The jangles and vocal drone of ‘Electricity’ ring out and are without doubt the highlight of the second half of the set.
As they complete the set, the crowd whoop and cheer, knowing they have witnessed a piece of history here tonight in a (not so) quiet corner of Manchester; who can ask for more than that..?