Gig Reviews

A Poorly Promoted Gig In A Badly Air Conditioned Venue Is Fast And Bulbous… Got Me? THE MAGIC BAND Live Review

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Ozymandias couldn’t be more chuffed than to turn over a corner of The Boot Room to this guest review of The Magic Band gig at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms (04.11.15), penned by the mighty Citrus Penguin himself. Take it away, CP…

So I woke up Monday morning, 2nd of November, I checked my phone for emails and the first thing that popped up at the top of my inbox was one from The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham saying “See The Magic Band in Nottingham”… surely they can’t mean THE Magic Band? They weren’t lying, I couldnt believe it. After missing them a couple of years ago because I was too young, I knew this was my last chance to catch even a glimpse into the live spirit of Captain Beefheart. Turns out the gig is in 2 days time. I ran to the bus stop and hurried into the town centre, going round every record shop asking if they sell tickets. After purchasing them from The Music Exchange, I let go a massive sigh of relief.

Wednesday 4th of November, I arrive at The Rescue Rooms early with a big wad of money I drew out, eager for merchandise (okay it was only £40 but hey, that’s a lot for someone from Arnold). The main hall only had about 10 people there waiting patiently for Drumbo and his new recruits to play. I go up to the merchandise stall and purchase a tour shirt and a live CD, the guy behind the stall turns to me and says: “Welcome to the first night of the tour, you’re the first person to own this shirt” which was a nice touch along with the glowing hawk eyes from people aged from 40-70 staring down at my young presence as if I am not worthy because of my age… we’ll see about that. So I wait at the barrier eagerly anticipating the band’s arrival arrive at half 8. I turn round and see a poster on the wall that read “The Magic Band will perform 2 sets tonight, there will be no support” I knew before they even came on this was going to be gig to remember. As I’m writing this review I feel slightly embarrassed by the fact that although I knew most of the songs played, the names slip my mind, so I apologise in advance. The sheer excitement prevented me from remembering words, thats my excuse. May I also mention that Rockette Morton was not present as he is very ill at the moment… we wish him good health.

Half 8 arrives, the new Magic Band walk onstage. Line up includes an incredible new drummer, two guitar players, one playing standard 6 string slide, the other playing an 8 string guitar. Instead of a bassist they had a keyboard player using a MIDI keyboard to recreate bass sounds and generate weird loops. As Drumbo enters the stage, the room suddenly seems a great deal fuller. His presence is respected by everyone, half the front row were bowing to him. “WE ARE THE MAGIC BAND, AND WE PLAY THE MUSIC OF CAPTAIN BEEFHEART!” screamed Drumbo as he punched his fist in the air, the whole band coming in all at the same time. My goosebumps were trying to jump out my skin with joy. As they pace viciously and powerfully through the first track, they soon jump into Beefheart’s breakthrough single “Diddy Wah Diddy”, Drumbo abusing the harmonica with love all the way through, pure blues joy. Occasionally he picked up his oboe (which he can actually play, very well), adding a nice touch and as soon you saw it, you instantly wanted Captain Beefheart to be there holding it to his face wearing his infamous trout mask.

Pacing through Beefheart classics such as “Nowadays A Womens Gotta Hit A Man”, the band reached silence. You couldn’t hear a pin drop… then we hear the intro we’ve all been waiting for followed by a gentle “SINGING THROUGH YOU TO ME… THUNDERBOLTS CAUGHT EASILY” The crowd were in heaven! Raising his arm and pointing to them, Drumbo ejaculated a very impressive “EEELLLLLEEEECCCCCTRRRRIIIIIIIICITYYYYYYYYY” … silence again… then… the bass comes in… oh man… my brain’s feel good factor was about to explode with joy. Then it occurs to me, why have they not got a theremin? The whole paoint of that song is to listen for the theremin? I was not disappointed. Out of nowhere the 8 string guitar player pulls out an iPad with an app that emulates a theremin sound very well, to the obvious approval of the crowd. At the conclusion of their first set, they leave the stage to take a well earned break.

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Drumbo appears 20 minutes later to have a casual chat with the crowd and reel off some interesting Beefheart related stories to do with record labels, and how not to get screwed over. Shortly after he starts walking around the drum kit with everyone anticipating that he’ll play it. Without his shadow having time to catch up with him, he fires himself behind the kit and the whole crowd erupt with sheer happiness. He blasts through an interesting original Drumbo solo which gets a great reception from the crowd. He then leaves the stage again and the band resurface once more, this time to open the 2nd set with a blinding rendition of “On Tomorrow”, the punters smiling like cheshire cats.

His new Magic Band line up are incredible, they would make Beefheart proud. If you closed your eyes, it was as though The Captain had been resurrected along with his various line ups. Drumbo-as-Beefheart is scarily accurate. This is the closest I’ll ever get to embracing the legacy. As the set comes to a close, the mood drops and Drumbo picks up on this, promising: “We’ll back soon Nottingham, thank you for having us!”

As the smoke cleared, I snapped back into reality. Did that really just happen? Has Drumbo altered part of my psyche? The haunting wake up call that it’s all over and you have to be up at half 7 for work the next day hit me. But what the heck, my soul has been cleansed. So all in all a good night was had. A varying set with songs from near enough every album that Drumbo played on. My next wish is Trout Mask Replica played in full, then I can die happy (You’re too young to die, Asa! – Oz). Tonight was a celebration of a band that achieved so much. As I left the venue and caught my bus back to Arnold, I stared up out of the window at the moon and it started to snow… tonight there’d be ice cream!

This review previously appeared on the now defunct Bootroom Of Ozymandias blog.

Citrus Penguin (who also operates under the alias Manuff) is an amazing young talent I discovered in a record shop in Nottingham… working behind the counter! You can find any amount of his weird and wonderful creations on soundcloud and mix cloud (as Citrus Penguin) and I earnestly implore you to do so. If you wish to refresh your Proggy palate, you can even catch him in p*nky mode on http://youtu.be/Ie4I7BZBMnY  (“Hung Like Hanratty”? That’s real tasteful, dude!) I’m expecting great things from this guy…

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An Old Person’s Guide To King Crimson: KING CRIMSON @ BIRMINGHAM’S SYMPHONY HALL Reviewed

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One of the cardinal rules by which life is lived in The Boot Room – prompted in equal parts by agoraphobia, poverty, middle aged inertia, sheer laziness and an all-encompassing aversion to modern life is… NEVER LEAVE THE BOOT ROOM! How else could we ensure the prolific and up-to-date delivery of postings for which this blog is famed? The downside is that Ozymandias doesn’t get to attend many gigs these days, most recently Focus at the MK Stables, May 2014 (verdict? Menno Gootjes’ solos were too drawn out, bumping a bunch of classic repertoire from the set.) But King Crimson at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, 15.09.15? Tempting… especially so, given Robert Fripp’s admonition that, as the Crims’ previous UK tour took place in 1982, it might prove unwise to wait another 33 years to see them in action on these shores. That and the unexpectedly retrospective nature of the material being played could reasonably be construed as a heavy hint that this could be the last time. This could be the last time. May be the last time…

… but I dunno. Fripp’s pronouncements always have an authoritative air to them (it’s the way he tells them) yet are often contradicted by the subsequent facts. Remember how Crimson, the band and way of doing things, “ceased to exist” in 1974? Remember how he was never going to revisit ‘60s / ‘70s repertoire? Remember his recent and short-lived retirement from music to concentrate (successfully, as it happened) on pursuing monies owed? The second and third of these rethinks are, methinks, possibly not unconnected… presumably once Fripp had been ensured of his due from subsequent sales of the back catalogue, he felt happier about promoting such sales via live performance. Anyway, that’s pure conjecture on my part. Here are the facts…

Birmingham’s much-maligned city centre has been through a major overhaul since I last set foot in it, 15 years previously. The official unveiling of New Street’s £multi-million revamp was still five days away but it was already apparent that the Station has been transformed from some sunless circuit of subterranean dungeons into… something really rather spiffy. As for the closely clustered civic set pieces of the Town Hall, Repertory Theatre, International Convention Centre, Library (possibly designed by the people who did the Tyrell Corporate HQ in Blade Runner) and The Symphony Hall itself… bostin’!

This gig was scheduled after the previous night’s had sold out and the joint is about half full of Crim fanciers of all ages… there’s even a fair smattering of the fairer sex propping up the bar and milling around the merch stall. I think David Singleton was doing one of his Q&A sessions somewhere in the building, but train time tables meant I missed that. Instead I contented myself with celeb spotting, or attempted celeb spotting… no sign of Toyah… I would have thought that tonight might have been a natural for Lenny Henry… but is that Lee Pomeroy, from Steve Hackett’s band? Should have gone over and asked him but I was too shy (hush hush, eye to eye…)

Into the auditorium, whose splendour matches that of the building’s carapace, to be confronted by the much talked about massed ranks of drum-kits, soon to be occupied by (l-r) Pat Mastelotto, Bill Rieflin and Gavin Harrison. Behind them, places are set for (l-r) Mel Collins, Tony Levin, Jakko Jakszyk and yer man Fripp. Before they take the stage the boys deliver a taped plea to audients to refrain from photographing and filming the gig on their phones. “We know we can’t make an audience do or not do something…”  acknowledges an obviously mellowing Fripp, “… but what’s the point of watching the gig on a tiny screen with crappy sound later when you have the opportunity to enjoy the immersive experience here and now?” continues Jakszyk (all quotes approximate.) What indeed, would be the point? And couching the argument in such reasonable terms seemed to do the trick as I witnessed no flash or phone transgressions through the course of the evening. Tonight’s bespoke soundscape fades out and the assembled Crims make their entry. The Burton’s window dress code is starting to relax a bit, Collins’ and Mastelotto’s ties being conspicuously absent. Fripp shields his eyes against the house lights to calculate the turnout and test the air before the band start pummelling it with Larks Tongues In Aspic Part 1. Dynamic, much? As counter-intuitive as the seven piece, drum heavy formation might have seemed when announced, it immediately begins to make sense in the flesh… or should I say skin? You suspect that Fripp wishes he’d had this ensemble at his disposal in 1972, that this is what he was groping towards with the misfiring mid-90s “double trio” formation… even the heavy metal bebop of 21st Century Schizoid Man could have been written for this KC big band treatment. But wait, I’ve already got to the final number… see how time flies when you’re enjoying yourself?

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There’s so much to take in with this band, e.g. how the drummers divide up their work (initially Mastelotto is doing the Jamie Muir schtick while Rieflin holds the beat and Harrison flexes his fusion chops… then Harrison and Mastelotto mesh while Rieflin adds mellotron adornments to some of the earlier material, before the percussive kaleidoscope shifts again…) How Fripp and Jakszyk weave guitar patterns between them. How the band leader allocates solos (mostly to Jakszyk and Collins, as it turns out, though he steps out himself on Level Five and sets his guitar to laser sustain stun for Easy Money.) Collins beefs up riffs that suddenly seem to have been crying out for his participation all along… and Levin merits serious study at all times, playing as he does like five mere mortal bassists who are simultaneously pushing at the limits of their capabilities. Then you realise that in trying to track all these interactions, you’re making the same mistake as the guys with their cell phones. Better to let the immersive experience wash over you. For the same reason I stopped trying to note down the set list, unable as I was to recognise new numbers (or even, in the case of several drum interludes, to work out whether I was listening to a fully-fledged number or just a linking piece.) By a supreme piece of deductive reasoning, I did manage to establish that the one in which Jakko kept singing about a meltdown was probably… Meltdown.

While we’re on the subject of Jakko’s singing, you might be wondering how he measured up to the standards previously set by Greg Lake and John Wetton. He manfully attempted Wetton’s scatting in an Easy Money that featured the album (i.e. marginally less lubricious) version of its lyrics. He’s certainly no Greg Lake but then again, how many people can sing that beautifully? Jakszyk acquits himself well enough on a stunning Epitaph, a song whose lyrics ring even truer now than they did almost half a Century ago (purple pixie Peter Sinfield getting the last laugh.. though I fear tomorrow we’ll be crying.)

This band is probably too mathematical to really swing but it swaggers all over the likes of Level Five and Pictures Of A City, later loosening up for one of the finest Talking Drums I’ve yet heard (complete with drunken bees and funk fingers), segueing into the inevitable Larks’ Tongues Part 2 (which contained the only apparent slight stumbles of the evening) before the crimson lights (nudge, nudge) dim over a magisterial closing Starless. Fripp, looking kinda goofily happy, scans the crowd again on their return for In The Court Of The Crimson King and 21st Century Schizoid Man, the latter featuring a wire wristed Harrison solo. I think they’d probably have come back for another encore if the crowd had persisted, but the fact that they didn’t meant I was able to make an earlier train and get back to The Boot Room at a reasonable hour and without too much extra expense.

42 years prior to all of this I sat on the last bus out of Skelhorne St bus station (now lost) on my way home from the first gig I ever attended, King Crimson at the Liverpool Empire. The general consensus on the top deck was disappointment at the fact that they hadn’t played 21stCSM that night. In 2015 we got that but on the tram home I found myself in conversation with a Crim-loving couple who’d also been to the previous night’s show, which had apparently featured heavy doses of Islands and Red. While sorry to miss the title track of the latter, One More Red Nightmare and The Sailor’s Tale, I was delighted to have been treated to the majority of both ITCOTKC and Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. In an ideal world I’d have gone both nights but there was no chance of that at £65 for a half decent seat… one (D7) in which, by the way, the placing of one of Harrison’s cymbals (the really gongy sounding one) seemed to have been specifically placed to obscure my view of Robert when he was sat down playing. I imagine “Chuckles” Fripp would get quite a laugh out of that…

Looking forward to doing it all again again in 2048. In the meantime, a nice DVD / Blu-ray record of this tour would be very welcome… if only to get a glimpse of the elusive Fripp, doing what he does best in his natural habitat.

courtdeepAnd here IS the set list for the gig under review, subsequently confirmed at dgmlive.com

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part I)

Pictures Of A City 

Radical Action (To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind)

Meltdown

Hell Hounds Of Krim

The ConstruKction Of Light 

Level Five

Epitaph 

Banshee Legs Bell Hassle

Easy Money 

Interlude

The Talking Drum 

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part II)

Starless

Devil Dogs Of Tessellation Row

Court Of The Crimson King 

21st Century Schizoid Man

http://www.dgmlive.com

This review previously appeared on the now defunct Bootroom Of Ozymandias blog.

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