Zappa's homage to father a delight
By GARY BUDZAK
Published in the Columbus Dispatch - July 27, 2007
The Tour de France is a scandal-plagued bicycle endurance race that takes place in July. The "Tour de Frank" is a hard rock concert tour that takes place in July. Which is more fun?
You got it: the latter event, also known as "Zappa Plays Zappa," made a stop last night at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion. In this unique concert, Dweezil Zappa and a six-person band successfully re-created many of his late father Frank Zappa's best songs with panache and more than a few mind-blowing solos.
For more than two-and-a-half hours, Dweezil and company played 20-odd intricate Zappa compositions. One may not associate the word "intricate" with a rock concert, but it applies to Frank Zappa's music. At one moment, it rocks out; the next, it abruptly stops and becomes dissonant and strange, like the music of his mentor, classical composer Edgar Varese; and then it may become soulful the next moment.
The soul was provided by special guest Ray White, who sang on many of Zappa's original works. It was cool to hear him chime in on City of Tiny Lights, San Ber'dino, Uncle Remus and Joe's Garage.
The other band members excelled too, most notably saxophonist/vocalist/keyboardist Scheila Gonzalez; and vibes/marimba player Billy Hulting (who sang on the Illinois Enema Bandit).
But the most enduring images of the concert was when Frank Zappa appeared on screen behind the group, singing and playing guitar from on high, swapping solos with Dweezil on Cosmik Debris on cue and rapping about religious demagoguery on Dumb All Over. It was eerie and it was exciting.
Dweezil played much like his dad, although he doesn't command the stage or offer much commentary, unless you count slamming Styx.
The mostly-full crowd in the pit and on the lawn generally gave Zappa standing ovations after each song. Then again, he was preaching to a choir of aging hippies and Geek Squad rejects. Among the more unusual items spotted were purple hair, a hacky sack ball, Procol Harum and Weezer t-shirts. Yet unlike many in the audience, Dweezil was able to enjoy his riffing stone sober.
To be fair, the pit did assist Dweezil on Dupree's Paradise by offering "Slyders with Cheese" when prompted for a title. After noodling around a bit on the instrumental, White incorporated the phrase in an improvised lyric about baseball and White Castle. These guys are smart!
Although he has a couple albums of his own out, Dweezil Zappa said he enjoys doing the "Zappa Plays Zappa" shows, saying in a recent interview that fans tell him it gives them a chance to hear Frank Zappa's sardonic, satirical sounds in a live setting, in some cases, for the first time. We approve, and look forward to future installments of the "Tour de Frank."