Live in Vancouver 1981
We’re being deluged with radio broadcasts – it’s a constant treat and here we have Captain Beefheart in one of his final shows. On tour to promote Doc At The Radar Station (from which we hear selected highlights: Hot Head, Ashtray Heart, A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond, Dirty Blue Gene and Best Batch Yet) it wasn’t long after this that the Captain charted a different path – painting in the desert – to see out his days, turning his back on touring altogether.
The band here (Eric Drew Feldman on bass and keys, Jeff Moris Tepper on guitars, Richard Snyder, guitars and bass and Robert Arthur Williams on drums with Beefheart adding some saxophones) is dynamite and the early inclusion of the vintage Abba Zabba sets a great vibe and showcases the unique skills of these players in translating Don Van Vliet’s magical art-rock, blues-drenched splatter-paintings.
There have been a few full concerts from Beefheart and his various bands sneaking out in to the world in recent years (Avalon 1966 for instance) and often via the grey area of the radio broadcast, meaning rights are with the radio station that originally broadcast the show rather than the artist. It’s a treat for fans – at any rate. And though this is bootleg quality of course (the drums are tinny and buried, the rest of the instrumentation is largely fine) there are moments where you almost feel you’re there – the chanting madness of Bat Chain Puller, the lurching, stumble-blues pastiche that is Sheriff of Hong Kong, the meandering guitar tag of Doctor Dark. We’re in the hands of a singular talent here and this is a brilliant setlist and an often extraordinary performance. It shows that Beefheart went out on a high point. He knew when to quit. He had his say across a decade and a half and did it in his way. And that we have some of this lasting proof (outside of the official albums too) is a treat and a constant – profound – education.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron