What a great show. I enjoyed it a lot.
Took a while to get into though. I was quite far from the stage, the video intro was too long, and the first numbers were a bit hesitant and tentative. The band warmed up through Florentine Pogen (Pojama People next time please!), but Pygmy Twilite was a touch slow. They got Cheepnis just right, though, and by St Alfonso/Father Oblivion they were well on song. Inca Roads was stunning, I was bowled over by how close to the original they made it sound. The spirit was there. Dweezil's solo was his own, not the OSFA version, but it was beautiful. The keyboard solos sounded awful from where I was sitting though.
Sheik Yerbouti was my second Zappa album and I had a six-month obsession with it, but the trio of pieces that opened the second half* didn't grab me. In fact the whole of the Bozzio section left me slightly underwhelmed. It was all perfectly played, but...I dunno. I think I had unrealistic expectations after the glowing reviews from earlier tour dates, and from the will-he won't-he anxiety on the zappa.com boards about TB's appearances at other shows.
Peaches was the first Zappa music I ever heard - and tonight it sounded just as fresh and exciting as it did then. It was a brilliant rendition. Montana was great, I've not heard anyone make the noises Steve Vai got out of his guitar before, and the duel with Dweezil was a treat.
Village of the Sun and especially Echidna's Arf were two more faultless recreations - just wonderful music - and I was so transported that I fully expected to hear the words "Ladies and Gentlemen, watch Ruth". Alas, not. But does my memory deceive me - the band played the intro to Don't You Ever Wash That Thing, didn't they?
A great Zombie Woof with a mind-altering Vai solo, and then Sofa, a good concert closer but not a favourite of mine (still no Pojama).
By the encore everyone had been reeled in to the enterprise. After some more Vai plectrionics and Bozzio cymbal-stroking, a rousing Trouble Every Day closed the night. Count me in for the next tour.
Dweezil - what kind and gentle soul. I didn't think the California showbiz class could produce such normal and pleasant people. He's so damn nice that his inter-song banter bordered on the banal. I've never seen a rock n' roller with so much meeknis. And a really (really!) super guitarist - held the whole thing together with aplomb. He must be so satisfied with what he's brought off. Wonderful to see him take such time and trouble with the fans afterwards.
Steve Vai - I'd never heard him before. Impossibly good guitar parts. Really extraordinary. No more to say.
Terry Bozzio - 100% commitment to his bits. Utterly distinctive. I won't argue with those who say he's the best drummer around, but I think they mean best of a kind, and I like other kinds marginally more. Joe Travers deserves equal praise for the rest of the set - not a tom or hi-hat out of place.
Napoleon Murphy Brock - energy and stage presence, great musicianship, vocals mostly good but sometimes veered casually into aimless screams. A few too many playful liberties taken with the original lyrics. I know that was a Zappa hallmark, but isn't this all supposed to be a recreation? I can't expect the same tone and inflection on every word, but in some places he didn't aim close and it took the edge off the experience.
Billy Hulting - this man's percussion made the concert. Perfect on every song, especially good on Inca Roads and Peaches.
Bassist - the solos showed us flashes of skill, and I longed for more, but I couldn't hear him clearly for most of the night.
Guitar, keyboards and sax - they must have been good, because they band wouldn't have sounded so great if they weren't, but they didn't stand out for me.
Sound - not the best. Chunks of the performance were muddy, the keyboards sounded bad from my first-half vantage point, the bass was submerged and Bozzio's vocals were inaudible moving to barely audible.
Poor acoustics, archaic toilet practices (the old 50-cent bottleneck) but otherwise OK. Moved down to the front for the encore.
* The first half was spoilt by two Dutch guys sitting next to me - they arrived 20 mins late and talked incessantly during the show. They paid the band virtually no attention, and when they weren't chatting they just gawped at the rest of the audience. I bit my tongue until Inca Roads, but there was no way they were going to spoil my favourite Zappa solo. Sure enough, two seconds into the guitar and they're chuckling again. So I ask them to shut up and they look like two schoolkids caught chewing gum in class. At the intermission I told them I reckoned they'd wasted their money because they didn't seem interested in the music. It turns out they had already seen the concert in Amsterdam and had come for a second helping! I told them they were spoiling my one and only viewing. I went and stood behind the stall seats for the second half - among the listeners, closer to the stage and with more room for foot-tapping.