Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fast N Bulbous

I love Captain Beefheart. Let me make this clear. I need to convey how much I love Beefheart before I talk about this gig, so please bear with me.

When I was about 15, I liked to think of myself as someone who could get all the weird shit no-one else got. I listened to the Mary Chain, I listened to 8 Songs for a Mad King... I took pride in finding sense and truth in sounds others dismissed as noise.

And then, in the space of a few weeks, I did 2 things: I borrowed Bitches Brew from Birmingham Central Library and bought Trout Mask Replica.

These two albums were like nothing I could conceive of. There was nothing I could hang anything on, they were both just so far out. But I could hear, somewhere in this confusing noise, SOMETHING. Something very important that I knew I had to grasp, no matter how long it took.

In the event, it took me the best part of 10 years to understand those records. And it was worth every second when I reached that point when suddenly everything clicked and they became as clear as the simplest nursery rhyme to me. Since then I've always harboured a suspicion that any really great music takes a decade to understand, and if it doesn't, it's not really worth it.

Anyway, the point is that I love this music beyond reason. So when I heard that ex-Magic Band guitarist Gary Lucas was coming to these shores with a new band dedicated to performing the Captain's music, I was intrigued, but also wary. I've seen Lucas perform before, both in his own right and with various collaborators, including the reconstituted Magic Band, so I knew that at least the evening would be a well presented, respectful display of Beefheart's music.

What I wasn't really prepared for was that the band would do something I'd have doubted possible: they didn't just play the tunes, they worked them to create something new. Everything they played was familiar, yet also sounded as if it were being recreated right in front of me. This show was presented under the aegis of the London Jazz Festival, and it succeeded purely in the terms you might expect from that: it presented Beefheart's music as a living, breathing thing, no museum exhibit.

I went expecting some good musicianship and some rekindling of memories. I got that - Gary Lucas played Evening Bell and Flavor Bud Living about 2 feet away from me, for chrissakes! - but I ended up buying the album, and more importantly, I went home dizzy in the joy of having been reminded in the best possible way why I love this music.

Do I sound lime a raving fanboy? I don't care. This was one of those rare evenings when I really felt the full force of what music is capable of. Did I mention that I LOVE Captain Beefheart?

Bowmans update: They're nearly there, but they still need your votes, and all your friends, people! Get on over to the Deli and do that voting thang! And then make your friends do it. And their friends. (&c.)

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