Locarno Ballroom, Stevenage  22/4/73

Don from the 1973 UK TourThis rundown, no atmosphere, old style ballroom didn't seem to me to be the right venue for a Captain Beefheart gig, but at least it was close to where a bunch of us lived.  We must have turned up quite early because it seemed we spent a long time just sitting on the floor smoking.  At one point I remember looking towards the back of the stage where there was a door and seeing Don, Mark, and possibly, Bill walk by and wave to us.

The stage was quite small.  In fact it was only a raised platform about 18 inches high and this helped to make the show more intimate as you could get right up close. However, just before the band took the stage a number of hefty bouncers appeared and took up positions to defend the stage (what bands had they had on here before!!). When the realisation slowly dawned on them that we were not going to storm the stage they drifted off - somewhat confused!

As this was the first time I'd seen Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band live I was just stunned by the occasion and probably stood open-mouthed throughout. But, as for as I can remember, the sound was great. The band played well and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves (I know I did).

Rockette Morton prowled the stage like a maniac in his bright blue suit with yellow trim and fireman(?) helmet (I don't think it was the toaster). Zoot Horn Rollo in an outrageous plaid suit looking thin, angular, out of this planet but totally in control. Ed Marimba, bare-chested except for a waistcoat, wearing a monocle stared at the audience throughout the set, unmoving except for flailing arms. Alex St Claire (oh shit! one of the original Magic Band), looking very dapper and cool in a 3-piece suit, tie and with a flower in his buttonhole. For some reason Orejon was erased from my memory - in fact for many years I totally forgot he was in the band at this gig. Don looked much as he does in the photograph above, head band, leather jacket & red Captain Beefheart t-shirt. He was in fine voice and good temper.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the set list although certain songs stand out for different reasons.

  • Intro: Rockette's infamous bass solo, then the band joined for a lengthy instrumental introduction (known as 'Pompadour Swamp' then but became 'Suction Prints') which developed into 'Mirror Man', the cue for Don to appear and the crowd to go apeshit.
  • Big Eyed Beans: yes, yes, 'that long lunar note' live!!!
  • Electricity: Don recited the first verse before the band tore into the song.
  • Black Snake Moan: a great thrill to hear something different, especially blues.
  • Sugar 'n' Spikes: instrumental! I think the band may have played others as instrumentals which totally knocked me out as I wasn't expecting it and didn't realise they did it.

I don't recall an encore - there may have been a short one but the DJ/Compere reappeared (obviously not a fan) made a few disparaging remarks, that the band had gone so there was no point in asking for more, then proceeded to put Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid' on at ear-shattering volume (what a moron!)

But what a gig! What an incredibly tight band they were in '73.

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