Because I said that I’d review it, even if it killed me.
Bollocks. What did I go and say a thing like that for?
OK. Wreckless Eric: started worryingly. Looked terrified, guitar badly out of tune, opening number very bleak and scary and confrontational, crowd more or less totally ignored him, continuing to talk loudly over the top of the music. K and Buni escaped for a drink outside, as I worried even more about K’s capacity to last the evening.
Thereafter, a sudden and welcome improvement. Eric finds form, swaps guitar, relaxes, tells great anecdotes, makes us laugh – and plays some bloody marvellous songs, most of which I’d never heard before. I particularly liked a new song called 33s & 45s. (Actually, it brought an unexpected lump to the throat.) So… not the washed-up deadbeat of my worst imaginings, then. Far, far from it.
Leaving the stage to rapturous applause from a newly converted audience, Eric’s parting shot: “It’s going the be the night of your lives. If only you knew it.”
He knew, you see. He knew just how f***ing fantastic The Magic Band were going to be. And just like all the very best gigs, I am at a complete loss as to how to explain to you just how and why they were quite so f***ing fantastic.
Masterful musicianship, authentic feeling, real love for Beefheart’s still astonishing and utterly timeless compositions (for this was no cosy nostalgia-fest; the songs still felt as fresh and as vital as ever). Oh, it’s no good. There are thousands of ways of slagging something off, but so few ways of gushing about something so special and so perfect.
Tell you what. Take a listen instead: to the encore, Big Eyed Beans From Venus. The absolute highlight of the night, this completely tore the roof off the place.
(The version you have here was recorded live on the John Peel show, on the night after the Nottingham gig. It is therefore as accurate a representation of the gig as you are ever likely to find.)
So, more importantly, how did K cope with the mayhem?
There was only one word to describe his expression, every time I looked over at him.
Totally wrapped up in the performance. Scarcely aware of the hot crush around him. With a level of concentration that I frequently struggle to achieve. All anxieties rendered irrelevant in the face of such uncontestable genius.
Honestly, I was that proud.
He’s going back to see Gong in September, at the same venue.
What forces have we unleashed?