Prog rock icons Magma perform at GAMH in SF on 3/18/2016

Magma at The Great American Music Hall on 3/18/2016

Magma at The Great American Music Hall on 3/18/2016

Last year Magma ended their concert with vocalist Stella Vander stating “See you next time”. Fans at the sold out concert at Slim’s in April of 2015 left thrilled at not just what they witnessed but also the idea that the band would return again to perform in city by the bay.

 

Christian Vander and Magma are on their second US tour in as many years

Christian Vander and Magma are on their second US tour in as many years

This year the band lived up to their promise with the Endless Tour returning to SF, this time at the Great American Music Hall in the Tenderloin. Magma returned this time performing a different set from last year’s show. The group started out with Theusz Hamtaak, a song originally written in 1972 is from the Theusz Hamtaak trilogy of albums  which includes the 1973 release Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh , a song they also performed at last Friday’s concert. Vocalist Stella Vander said regarding Theusz Hamtaak that the crowd liked seventies music and this was good, because they had 70’s songs to perform to us. 

Christian Vander's Magma in the 70's

Christian Vander’s Magma in the 70’s

The band also performed two other amazing extended jams to conclude the performance with Koïaba from their first album in 1970 s/t release and Zombies, a song from the 1976 record Üdü Ẁüdü. The intensity of being at a Magma concert is like no other show you’ll see. This is perhaps one reason the band sounds live now like they’re as much ahead of their time as they were when they recorded the songs from the set list.

Magma are the greatest band on earth.

Magma are the greatest band on earth.

The band has a new face in the band with guitarist James Mac Gaw sadly facing a health concern that prevented his touring with the band. The newest guitarist is working out for the band as yet another alumni to Magma is bringing the group closer their 5th decade as a band, something most artists might dream about. The music of the band reaches audiences of all generations. In fact the younger audience members seemed to know all of the songs and were into it and not missing a beat.

Magma have existed 47 years in music and are as ahead of their time today as they were then

Magma have existed 47 years in music and are as ahead of their time today as they were then

Cellist Helen Money was the opening act on Friday. Jello Biafra, a San Francisco resident and original singer for the Dead Kennedys (as well as a solo artist) introduced the band. He spoke about the recording of the new film To Life, Death and Beyond that is being recorded in part during this tour by Laurent Goldstein. The band once again said they will see us next time and once again the audience I’m sure can’t wait.

Jello Biafra introduced Magma at Friday's concert

Jello Biafra introduced Magma at Friday’s concert

The Endless Tour featuring Magma @ Slim’s 4/8/15

Magma Slim's SF

Magma Slim’s SF

Fans of the 70’s period of music referred to as Zeuhl, Progressive Rock and Rock in Opposition had a rare opportunity to see Magma in San Francisco, Ca last Wednesday. Fans hold the band at a ranking atop of their field and many might proclaim them the best rock band in the world if not the longest lasting one. At the moment the tour was announced posts started appearing on the internet and the band certainly lived up to, if not exceeded their reputation as the founders of Zeuhl.
Magma emerged as one of the strongest bands during what Chris Cutler refers to as Rock in Opposition in his book “File Under Popular” on November and Autonomedia books. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the remaining contemporaries of this field including individual and session performances by Chris Cutler (Henry Cow, Art Bears, Cassiber), Fred Frith (Henry Cow, Art Bears, Skeleton Crew, Cosa Brava), Zeena Parkins (Skeleton Crew, News from Babel, Elliot Sharp’s Carbon, No Safety, Cosa Brava) and Dagmar Krause (Henry Cow, News from Babel Art Bears), Univers Zero, Plastic People of the Universe, Albert Marcoeur, Guigou Chenevier (Etron Fou Leloublan), Lars Holmer (Samlas Mammas Manna), Richard Teitelbaum (Musica Elettronica Viva) Pere Ubu, Bratko Bibič (Begnagrad/Nimal), Tom Cora (Nimal/Skeleton Crew) Heiner Goebbels (Cassiber) and other remarkable bands from this era.

Magma at Slim's 4/8/15

Magma at Slim’s 4/8/15

According to Cutler, Magma are highly influenced by Classical Composers such as Stravinsky and Orf. Other bands such as Cutler’s Henry Cow as well as Art Zoyd and Univers Zero were also heavily influenced 20th Century Classical composers. Perhaps in a much greater perspective, Magma are positioned alongside other progressive rock enigmas such as Can, Faust, Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart, Present, Heldon, Gong, Stormy Six, Keith Rowe/AMM, Henry Cow and  Quiet Sun/This Heat.

The Endless Tour featuring Magma performing at Slim's on 4/8/15

The Endless Tour featuring Magma performing at Slim’s on 4/8/15

Imagine my surprise to find they were to do a rare US tour that included the bay area! I bought tickets immediately because although I wasn’t sure if it would/could sell out or not, I knew I didn’t want to risk missing a show with this much promise and anticipation. During my formative years it wasn’t easy to find Magma recordings but Attahk will always remain atop my list of favorite recordings from my formative years. They always had such a deep catalog and every song title and description seemed to take us to an alternate universe filled with spacey and celestial themes. The term Zeuhl is from Vander’s visionary language he invented to express musical ideas. This language is called Kobaian.

Magma performed songs from Slag Tanz and songs from their catalog

Magma performed songs from Slag Tanz and songs from their catalog

Magma were formed in 1969 in Paris, France. Over the decades they’ve released over 30 recordings both studio and live and are touring to support their latest recording Šlaǧ Tanƶ (on 7th Records). Šlaǧ Tanƶ was released in January of 2015 and is an EP.

Magma aux Etats-Unis!

Magma aux Etats-Unis!

Christian Vander is a classically trained drummer who founded the band in 1969. There were many musicians who’ve been members of Magma over the years one of the higher profile profile alumni of the band is composer Yannik Top who started with the band in 1973 and played bass on a number of their recordings during the early to mid seventies. They’re recordings are influenced by Classical vocals featuring several several vocalists during their performances including Vander and his wife Stella Vander who first appeared with the band on the 1973 recording Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh.

Magma performent leur disque nouvelle Slag-Tanz

Magma performent la disque nouvelle Slag-Tanz

 

 

On Wednesday April 8th, 2015, when the Endless Tour featuring Magma earthed at Slim’s in San Francisco, Ca., the band was introduced by local Punk icon Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys. Jello recounted being on the east coast one day and learning they were going to be performing in Pennsylvania. He said ‘he took every back road he knew and broke every traffic violation in the book to get there. On the way when he noticed he was still running late he had told himself if he were able to arrive and see 1 minute of music by Magma it would be a success. He finished by saying when he finally did arrive an hour late he rushed in and witnessed what was the best hour and a half of music he’s ever seen… And now (he went on to add) they’re in our town!’

Magma performed a  rare US tour in the Spring of 2015

Magma performed a rare US tour in the Spring of 2015