Review: Zappa plays Zappa with precision and flair
Centennial Concert Hall, Winnipeg - July 18, 2007
By DARRYL STERDAN -- Sun Media
Published on Canoe.ca JAM! Music - July 18, 2007
WINNIPEG - Dweezil Zappa's guitar may want to kill your mama -- but its real purpose is to keep his father Frank's music alive.
That was made abundantly clear Wednesday night at Centennial Concert Hall, where the eldest son of the late rock legend kicked off his latest Zappa Plays Zappa tribute tour for a small but wildly enthusiastic crowd of 2,200 Zappaphiles.
Over the course of a sprawling 170-miinute set, the affable 37-year-old guitarist lovingly uncrated and flawlessly recreated 26 of his dad's classics. And while the set list skirted some of Zappa's more comedic and provocative works, it still managed to touch on virtually every phase of his prolific and varied career, moving from '60s freak-outs like Son of Suzy Creamcheese and Brown Shoes Don't Make It to '70s wah-wah stompers like Muffin Man and Montana, and closing with G-Spot Tornado from 1986's electronic opus Jazz From Hell.
The talented backing septet -- which included two keyboard/horn players, a nimble percussionist and, best of all, former Zappa sideman Ray White on vocals and guitar -- handled every twist and turn with precision and flair, whether they were Xeroxing the hairy complexities of Echidna's Arf (Of You), dishing up lounge-lizard satire in America Drinks and Goes Home, jamming on Joe's Garage or cutting loose on the epic improv-fest Dupree's Paradise.
Dweezil was no slouch himself. Dressed down in jeans and a black shirt, the affable guitarist -- once a Van Halen-like pyrotechnician -- did a stunning job of duplicating his father's angular blues licks and craggy low-neck riffs on a vintage Gibson SG.
When he stepped up to the mic, it was only slightly less impressive; while Dweezil naturally sounds like a younger version of Frank, his voice doesn't have the same dramatic gravitas and snide delivery.
But even that problem was solved by one of the show's most inventive feature: Vintage concert footage of Frank was projected onto a video screen above the stage, and the band played along in perfect synch with the man himself on cuts like Cozmik Debris or Dumb All Over.
The effect was thrilling both technically and creatively -- at one point, Dweezil ended up trading solos with his father as the latter looked on from above, apparently urging his son to play on.
Several well-deserved standing ovations showed the crowd felt the same way.
You might want to make sure your mama's OK.
The full set list:
Echidna's Arf (Of You)
My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama
Black Napkins (with Frank Zappa video)
Son of Suzy Creamcheese
Brown Shoes Don't Make It
America Drinks and Goes Home
City of Tiny Lights
Montana (with FZ video)
Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy
Dumb All Over (with FZ video)
What's New in Baltimore?
Willie the Pimp
Wind up Workin' in a Gas Station
The Illinois Enema Bandit
Cosmik Debris (with FZ video)
Muffin Man (with FZ video)
SUN RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)