This is the seventh time I have seen Dweezil Zappa pay homage to his father, Frank Zappa’s music. The line up of musicians was stellar as usual. The line up of musicians has changed from previous tours. Sheila Gonzales is a phenomenal performer. (She sang all of the vocals back in 2006, when NMB could not make it to the show.) This is the third time seeing Ben Thomas on vocals. He has taken on the roles of NMB and Ray White… the latter left the tour a few years ago. Ben has come into his own performing the material and has taken on the toughest part of all – singing Roxy lyrics that Frank himself would have sung. (Dweezil performed the spoken parts, although no many “preambles” which are the best part of Roxy & Elsewhere album. “Camp, turn me up so they can hear me.”) If you got to see Pete Griffin play bass on ZPZ in the past shows, you will miss him! However Kurt Morgan on bass, does grow into the part. He did win me over as the performance progressed. More subdued physically in performance but he proves himself to be a true Zappa fan. (The performers were so young when ZPZ started, that many admitted not being overly familiar with Frank’s music.) Kurt in his own right was stellar. I’m pretty sure I saw Chris Norton on keyboards in 2011 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre with ZPZ. Another amazing performance on keys – even allowing the Mini Moog to have a bit if free rein. Ryan Brown replaces Joe Travers (the vaultmeister) on drums. Very powerful drum playing and great bandmate to Kurt Morgan.
Which brings us to Dweezil, carrying all of the guitar parts himself. In past performances he was assisted by Jamie Kime, Ray White and Steve Vai on guitars. We had a chance to meet with Dweezil before the show as part of his Master Guitar Class. He had mentioned that some of the parts of Zappa’s music was so complex to perform, that three performers would cover the scales. If one player fell off (and it’s nearly impossible to jump back in) the other two would carry the melody. If a second fell off, you’d realize you now had the responsibility to carry the piece. With that in mind, Dweezil played all of the guitar parts as the solo guitarist.
If you have even a mild appreciation for Frank Zappa’s music, you owe it to yourself to catch Zappa Plays Zappa whenever you can. The music of Frank Zappa is a legacy in American music composition that will carry on and this is your chance to see it performed as genetically close as seeing the man himself. (I had the pleasure of seeing him perform in 1981.) As Dweezil intimated in the pre-show talk, he and his father are very different musicians and Dweezil, who is just a regular guy, does his utmost to carry on the legacy of performing Frank’s music.
If you have the chance, go see Dweezil’s Master Class before hand. It doesn’t matter what your skill level. It’s a wonderful chance to sit down and discuss the music and how it’s played. You will also get to see the Gibson Frank Zappa Roxy SG custom guitar up close. Dweezil will demonstrate how it works if you ask him.
Also after the Roxy show, Dweezil and the band will stick around and sign stuff. So bring something to have signed! (I should have had him sign my guitar, Doh!)
Setlist: The Gumbo Variations, All of Roxy & Elsewhere. (intermission) Florentine Pogen, Teen-Age Wind, Teenage Prostitute, The Black Page( 1 & 2), Flakes, Broken Hearts, Wonderful Wino, I Come From Nowhere, Cosmic Debris, (encore) The Duke of Prunes, Muffin Man