Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, June 22, 2009

Zappa Plays Zappa, HMV Picture House Edinburgh, 18 June 2009

A long-awaited party, this one, as ZPZ had been due to play Glasgow a couple of years ago but had to cancel. Well worth the wait, though. ZPZ could be described as the ultimate tribute band, comprising Frank Zappa's son Dweezil and a bunch of musicians clearly selected as carefully as though FZ himself had picked them. (Sometimes it includes guests who were oringinal FZ alumni.) The music, as the name suggests, is all Frank's. Dweezil describes their audiences as mixing the older generation who came to know and love his Dad's music whe he was still making it, and a new generation who know it only from his huge recorded legacy and from ZPZ's loving recreations. I sort of straddle the two demographics: my brother intriduced me to Frank when We're Only In It For The Money came out, and took me to see the Mothers on the Uncle Meat tour. This means that while I can proudly say I saw Frank himself on stage (doing a memorable My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama), only one piece in Thursday's set list was written when I saw the man. (King Kong, since you ask.)

So on Thursday the Tour de Frank came to town. Details of the band are here, and they are so well-integrated that it seems almost pointless trying to pick out the best performances. Ben Thomas on vocals only joined just before the tour, so has done amazingly well to learn all the material, to say nothing of singing it so well. Scheila Gonzalez sang, played keyboards, and was stunning on flute and saxophone. Dweezil, who misses nothing, spotted a phrase in her Inca Roads solo which resembled the opening of George Michael's Careless Whispers, so during King Kong (which is really just an excuse for all the band members to take extended solos) he had her (1) play Careless Whispers on the sax (2) play a Middle Eastern style flute solo, then (3) morph that into Careless Whispers. Very much the kind of thing FZ used to do, and Scheila carried it off brilliantly. And then of course there is Dweezil. I never thought I'd rate anyone's guitar playing as highly as Frank Zappa's, but having now heard Dweezil rocking out live as well as on record I must admit that he's inherited his father's talent (for playing, not for composition). Facially he resembles Frank a bit, and seeing him play is weirdly like watching FZ. Like Frank, he hardly moves, even when his solos are at their wildest: no Steve Vai-like histrionics for Dweezil. But unlike stone-faced Frank, Dweezil smiles all the time. Here is someone clearly overjoyed to be on stage playing his father's music. And why not?

The audience were apparently among the livelier of the tour. Hugely enthusiastic and certainly fitting Dweezil's description of its composition. There was much joining in with vocals, cheers of recognition at the start of every piece, and calling of requests. When it came to the second encore, Dweezil gave us a choice: either we could have Cosmik Debris, one of Franks's favourites (and incidentally one of mine), or we could have the earlier-requested Bobby Brown Goes Down - but we'd have to sing it. So Bobby Brown it was, and the audience sang along, word-perfect.

I bought the T-shirt:

but I'll remember the gig long after the T-shirt has worn out.

Here's the setlist:

Black Napkins
Magic Fingers
Wind Up Working In A Gas Station
Village of the Sun
Echidna’s Arf
Inca Roads
Pygmy Twylite
King Kong
Bamboozled By Love
Outside Now
Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow / St Alfonso’s Pancake Breakfast / Father O’Blivion
Zomby Woof


Peaches En Regalia
Bobby Brown Goes Down
Willie The Pimp


At 28 July, 2009 23:34, Anonymous Alistair Robinson said...

Great review - amazing wasn't it? Thanks for posting a set list. I recently posted about the gig on my blog and your post came to the rescue.


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