Live Review: The Magic Band at The Phoenix, Exeter

As the T-Shirt goes; “I can explain it for you, but I can’t understand it for you”.

John French’s final incarnation of the Magic Band are now nearing the end of their farewell tour and they played the wonderful Exeter Phoenix as part of that.

Drawing exclusively from the Captain Beefheart back catalogue, a mixed age audience were treated to the delights of classic Captain Beefheart tracks such as Click Clack, Bat Chain Puller, My Human Gets Me Blues, Dropout Boogie, Electricity and even a rousing performance of Little Red Rooster.

With two hour long sets, the different lineup of Eric Klerks on a guitar that also doubled as a bass, Jonathan Sindelman on Keyboards and Keyboard Bass, Max Kutner on Guitar and Slide and Andy Niven on Drums managed the complicated musical changes required with ease, with maestro John ‘Drumbo’ French out front on vocals and Soprano Sax but who got to sit behind the kit for a couple of numbers at the beginning of the second set.

For those in the audience who knew Beefheart and what to expect, a splendid time was had by all, but I imagine that a few first timers (I heard “What is this band again ?” from someone outside on the way in) may have found the organised chaos a little tricky to define.

“Easy Listening” it was not and I for one am really grateful for that. The third incarnation of The Magic Band that I’ve had the pleasure to witness, from their first UK tour with mostly ex-Beefheart Alumni to this current incarnation that sees just Drumbo left.

The bad side is that this was the last tour as The Magic Band, but the good news is that John French will be returning to play his own stuff at a future date. If you don’t have the excellent “City Of Refuge” then buy it now !

I left with a happy heart that the band decided to play this far West and also because I managed to pick up the LAST t-shirt to add to my extensive collection.

RICHARD AUSTIN (SW Buyer)

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