Sunday, December 02, 2007

Zappa Plays Zappa Zaps Melbourne

Standing ovation for the ZPZ team led by Frank Zappa's eldest son Dweezil at their show at Hamer Hall in the Arts Centre last night. It was a very moving experience, knowing that Dweezil, a stunning guitarist in his own right, had chosen to spend a year studying and three months rehearsing a slice of his father's voluminous output with a fine ensemble to take on a world tour.
Quoted from the ZPZ website, DZ says: 'Prepping for the tour has been like preparing for a medieval battle where going into it your sharpest weapon is a spoon. But I'm pretty deadly with that spoon now.'

Also featuring...
Scheila Gonzalez
Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards & Vocals -
My personal favourite & all-round musical delite, exceptional versatility, funk and spunk (played with Ray Parker Jr. and Billy Preston, Sheila E.)

Aaron Arntz
Keyboards & Trumpet -
This guy is great (The Red Elvises, Telepathy Ascendant)

Pete Griffin
Bass -
Bad and funky (Hanson, Edgar Winter)

Billy Hulting
Marimba, Mallets & Percussion -
Neat (Maynard Ferguson’s High Voltage 2, Lou Rawls, Patti Labelle, Manhattan Transfer)

Jamie Kime
Guitar -
Individual, complimentary (Jewel, Michelle Branch,Malford Milligan in The Boneshakers

Joe Travers
Drums & Vocals -
The Zappa Vaultmeister since '95, a true gentleman and precision executioner) (Z [Ahmet & Dweezil Zappa], Duran Duran, Billy Idol, Lisa Loeb and Drake Bell.)

Ray White
Guitar and Vocals - (Frank Zappa, Don't Push the Clown)
A rubbery and rather extraordinary blues vocalist. Good improviser

Steve Vai
Guitar from Mars - (Frank Zappa, himself)

There was a big screen hitched overhead and the show kicked off and finished with Frank up there centre screen whipping it out with some dental floss farming in 'Montana' and socking out a monstrous solo. The whole ensemble accompanied him in an accomplished and highly-arranged style typical of his touring days. The rest of the time ZPZ did the show a la Dweezil according to the book of Frank with vocals scattered across the performers and lead sorties from DZ and Ray White.

My highlights were 'Willy the Pimp' from Hot Rats (rarely heard), a thoroughly enjoyable 'Dirty Habits', some opening songs which reminded us of Frank's R&B roots and teen background as a boy in the Mohave Desert region of California and the encore of a scintillating performance of 'Dog Meat', Dweezil's own favourite 'G-Spot Tornado' and 'Muffin Man'.

Dweezil relaxed into his solos as Frank did, treating the electric guitar as a serious compositional instrument capable of extraordinary expression and variation. His solos, like his father's, take you on an aural journey that the listener finds quite extraordinary, leaving her or him in a world a little better than the one they used to inhabit.

Despite his stated (and admirable) dedication to exactly reproducing FZ arrangements of certain Zappa/Mothers performances captured amongst enough reel to reel tape to encircle the world a few times, plus the digital catalogue (over 70 albums), Dweezil has his own very distinct style of playing. Challenging and intriguing, never flashy or shallow for the sake of a quick eargasm, Dweezil's work on the strings of his various Fenders and Gibsons, one of them apparently Frank's old SG, is absolutely seductive.

If I were to get critical at all it would be of Peaches En Regalia, a personal favourite which was a little hammered by the mass rock execution of its quirky signature, originally relatively minimalist.

A minor quibble though. It cost $10,000 (probably US)to bring this specialised gear - a HUGE set-up - to Australia, and certainly the mixed sex road crew were hard at work dismantling it after the show, en route to Adelaide, Sydney and Japan.

If you get the change to catch this show, go for it. There's a will within Zappa Inc to see it continue world touring. That would be a great service to the cause of international music.

Frank would be tickled.


Avo Raup said...

Hi Jen Jewel,

I'm glad to found your blog. The ZPZ review is good and Scheila Gonzales was my favorite too. I saw them in Berlin, Germany.
BTW. I posted today a picture of you and Frank Zappa on my site -

Kind regards

Jen Jewel Brown said...

Hi Avo,

Thanks! And thanks! I'm squinting in the shot as usual too vain to wear my glasses. I have this very ish of Hot Raz Times in my collection of STUFF, which Urban gave me. A great guy too. It really takes me back to those fabulous, fabulous days and dear Frank.

What a brilliant brain snap it was to see ZPZ out here. Dweezil seemed to be smiling favourably on the idea of coming out here again and the crowd was strictly rapturous. Thanks for showing me your great site. Well done. xJen