Just returned from the Zappa Plays Zappa show at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA. A nice, cozy venue. I'd be fooling myself if I thought I could sum it all up - the intensity, the transportation to another place and time, the musicianship - without time to fully process it. I'll start with this:
The music was unparalleled. From “Dyna Moe Hum” to “Peaches En Regalia,” from “St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast” to “Titties and Beer,” the power and energy were the same as I remember with Frank, as were the the talent and dynamism; it was just the messengers who had changed.
It falls well short of being fair, though it's probably accurate, to state that Dweezil Zappa is channeling his father. He is a phenomenally gifted musician in his own right - arguably a virtuoso guitarist - and has surrounded himself with a group of truly talented players (it is quite unfair to call them a supporting cast.) They presented FZ the way FZ would have wanted to be presented. Not just as an homage, though that was obviously one result, but also as a reflection of his composition, music, story-telling and social commentary translated into the present day. What I experienced made me feel like I was at once sitting in a haze of smoke at the Spectrum on Halloween, 1977, while at the same time fumbling for my "distance glasses" to gain a focus on the players just 15 rows distant.
Video Highlights: FZ leading the band via “enhanced video” and jamming with Dweezil on “Cosmic Debris.” Also his incredibly tasteful solo on “Inca Roads”.
Musical Highlights: Scheila Gonzalez, Billy Hulting and
Jamie Kime being given the room to tear it up and trading of solos on “Redunzl.”
Pete Griffin's twisted lead bass on “Excentrifugal Forz.” Ben Thomas and his amazingly accurate FZ-esque vocals. Let's not forget Joe Travers, who drove the band relentlessly from behind the kit.
Then there's Dweezil. Oh, you were shredding all night long, but that wasn't the half of it:
Requesting, in mid-concert, for the women in the house (historically underrepresented at the 5 or 6 Zappa shows I attended) to donate their bras and panties to make a quilt. Whether this was a transparent come-on or a genuine effort is moot, because in 10 minutes, you had enough lycra, spandex and underwire to clothe state of Delaware. THEN, you castigated security for not allowing the ladies up the stairs to join you on the stage. So you and Ben Thomas pulled them up from the pit. A rhetorical, “It's my show and if I want the ladies on stage, the ladies will be on stage.” Nice touch.
Finally, Dweezil, you are a masterful musician and consummate artist. Unlike many children of true legends, you do not suffer by comparison. Your father was a visionary as composer, performer and businessman. He was also a relentless perfectionist who did not suffer fools, period. You have inherited and learned much from him, but you have also grown into your own person and established your own identity. For that, your father would be immensely proud. For that, we are truly grateful.