I didn’t like this place. The bouncers searched us roughly on the way in; then, after finding a table to sit at, we were constantly harassed by cocktail waitresses, hassling us to buy overpriced drinks. All this just lowered my opinion of Richard Branson and Virgin, who owned the place, even further.

It was a bit of a shock to see Beefheart when he came on. He’d aged a lot in 5 years, and had a kind of world-weary resigned air about him. Instead of the grand entrances of old, he just ambled quietly on stage. The first thing he said to us was “I don’t like Thatcher. And I don’t like her dancing partner either,” (meaning Reagan).

The set was a mixture of stuff from all his albums except Unconditionally and Bluejeans. There were a couple of low points: a mediocre take on Dropout Boogie which just didn’t work; and Old Fart At Play, which the band played absolutely note perfect, but Beefheart started the vocals too late. When the band finished playing, Beefheart was only about halfway through the words so they all had to stand absolutely frozen while Beefheart wearily recited the rest of the lyrics. There were very many high points: really blistering versions of Safe As Milk and Kandy Korn; an awesome Veterans Day Poppy, (on the record, when the fast rhythmic section fades out and the slower end section fades in, I’d assumed these were recorded seperately, and edited together in the studio. But this band reproduced the effect exactly, live. I’ve since heard tapes of them playing it at other gigs and I still can’t work out how they did it).

These guys were really talented. The way they could reproduce some of Beefhearts most complex music from albums they didn’t appear on was uncanny.

Sheriff of Hong Kong was another highlight. I hadn’t really got into it on record, thinking it overlong and rambling, but live it all made sense. They ATTACKED the song, and built it up to a thundering climax, with Beefheart beating the shit out of his chinese gongs.


  1. Lee says:

    Well, I was at this exact same gig, 12th November 1980, although he played two shows that night…I saw the earlier gig. I must admit, after well over 30 years, I can’t remember every detail by any means, although the sit-down tables thing was a bit unexpected. The band played the complex music perfectly, I suspect they were a lot more ‘professional’ than the line-up Don had a decade before. The only band I’ve ever seen that did live fade-outs at the end of songs! Shame I didn’t get to see more of him, but I was only 17 at the time.

    The live Amsterdam album recorded a couple of weeks before captures them very well, and it bought back quite a few memories when I finally got round to hearing it.

  2. David says:

    Don’t remember anything about the concert except that a friend whose name I can’t remember sat down at one of the tables with a “Reserved” card that had his name on. A bouncer came up and told him it wasn’t for him..the friend pointed out it had his name on the card and he wasn’t moving ..the bouncer said he wasn’t the right whoever and told him to move..the friend repeated that it had his name on the card ..an argument ensued and the bouncer grabbed him by the scruff and threw him out.. he never got to see the Captain he’d waited all his life to see… the Captain who would have been so proud of his greatest fan!!

  3. timothy says:


    does any body remember who the support band
    was for those two gig nightly shows at ‘the Venue’ , London in 1980

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