Monday, August 06, 2007

Zappa Plays Zappa

I just saw Zappa Plays Zappa for the 3rd and 1/2 time (saw them perform at the Jammy Awards in 2006) in Red Bank, NJ last night, and what a show it was!
First off, it was great to finally see Ray White perform live (I got into FZ just after the ’84 tour). To these ears, his vocal chords have not aged at all since his FZ days. He belted out the Illinois Enema Bandit just as well as ever. I was a bit disappointed, however, that they did not perform Doreen, another Ray White showcase tune.

They performed quite a mix of material, ranging from Absolutely Free to Jazz From Hell. Ironically, they only did two (or three) songs that were new when Ray White was in the band (Enema Bandit and What’s New In Joe’s Garage, even though Ray isn’t on that album).
Other highlights included more interaction with Frank on video. The ones I recall off the top of my head are Black Napkins (1981), Cosmik Debris (1974), and Muffin Man (1977). Needless to say, those were very emotional and moving moments for me....I’ll leave it at that.

I was sitting second row center, which had an upside and a downside. The downside was that the vocals were very hard to hear. The upside was that sitting that close enabled me to really observe two things. First, the musicians that Dweezil has assembled for this project are top-notch, and would easily qualify to play under Frank. They execute the music as well as any band Frank ever had, and they obviously have a lot of fun doing it. However, in my opinion, there is still something missing (besides Frank himself). Sitting here thinking about it, the only thing I can come up with is that they still have not learned how to put the "eyebrows" on it. I’m not even sure that it’s even possible without Frank himself.

The other thing I observed is that Dweezil has elevated his guitar playing to an awe-inspiring level. There were times last night where I could swear he was channeling Frank himself. His longest and most jaw-dropping solo was during Pygmy Twylite. It equaled any "air sculpture" Frank ever created, and dare I say possibly surpassed it. His elevated playing, coupled with him singing a LOT more, has made him a different performer than he was last year. He is definitely his father’s son. Granted, the one important element that separates him from his father is that he has yet to show that he has anything resembling Frank’s creative mind, but he certainly has the playing ability and the work ethic (he would have to, to accomplish what he has).

In any case, I would recommend that even the casual Zappa fan try and catch one of these shows (they’ll be back in the NYC area on Halloween), and at the very least get your hands on a RoIO from this tour.

Oh, and I was totally bummed that I did not bring my camera. I didn’t know what the policy was for either the band or the venue, but it turned out there was plenty of picture taking (no cameras that I noticed, but plenty of cell phones). Also, they were shaking hands from the stage at the end, so it might have been possible to get my YCDTOSA tour box signed by Dweezil and Ray...if I had brought it.
Maybe I’ll try again Halloween.

Two years, three months, three weeks, two days smober.
29565 cigarettes not smoked, saving $7,760.92.
Life saved: 14 weeks, 4 days

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