Sunday, January 17, 2010

Zappa Plays Zappa - January 15 - Ram's Head Live

This was my fifth time seeing Dweezil Zappa and his band perform his father's music. Each time has been a superb evening of live Zappa music. In past tours, ZPZ has included guest performers who are alumni from Frank Zappa bands (Steve Vai, Terry Bozzio, Ray White, Napoleon Murphy Brock, et. al.), however on this short tour it was pure ZPZ with no guests. But that was fine since Dweezil has assembled a band of very talented musicians who can play the heck out of a wide range of Zappa tunes. They had a new singer, Ben Thomas, who I had not seen before. He did a very good job with the challenging vocals and the improvisations that always made Zappa music fun to watch live.

The band started out on time and seemed almost in a hurry as they whipped through "Broken Hearts are for Assholes", "Bamboozled by Love", and "Dirty Love".  Then a very nice version of "RDNZL". Dweezil introduced "You Didn't Try to Call Me" saying that it was a rare arrangement that was only used briefly in the mid seventies when Frank had a female vocalist in the band (I missed her name). Scheila Gonzales handled the lead vocals this time and it was really nice. That was followed by "Road Ladies", a gem from the Chunga's Revenge album and version of "T'mershi Duween".

The band seemed to loosen up some and relax as they went back to the Joe's Garage album and played "Catholic Girls" and "Crew Slut" (with a superb guitar solo by Jamie Kime and some nice harmonica work by Ben). By now Dweezil was joking with the crowd, asking where to get good crab cakes.

It was recently announced that the City of Baltimore had selected a place to put a statue of Frank Zappa that was being given to the city by some dedicated fans in Lithuania. You can read about it here. Dweezil improvised the lyrics to "Pigmy Twylyte" to say that he'd be glad to attend the dedication ceremony if someone would tell him when it would be.

They closed with an encore including "Stinkfoot" and "Muffin Man" (which is a great song for an encore).  We grabbed a bite to eat before the show at a Mexican restaurant/night club next door to the Ram's Head where Vanilla Ice was scheduled to perform. I don't know why I'm mentioning that, it just seemed weird. My complaint on the Ram's Head is still that unless you're packed in the front, your choices are places where you can see well or hear well, but not both. Otherwise it was a good crowd with a high percentage of females for a Zappa show, the Bird suspects that Dweezil is gaining a following of his own with the ladies. In fact when Dweezil asked the audience in "What should I eat for dinner tonight?", one girl in front answered "Me!". Dweezil said his wife wasn't fond of that recipe.

A couple of other notes. Someone named Fred Midgett posted a very nice review of the show earlier in the week on the Zappa Plays Zappa web site. Fred is a huge Zappa fan and he wrote a loving note of thanks to Dweezil. You can read it in its entirety here. Scroll down to find Fred's posting.
Dweezil also mentioned a new web site called that has a bunch of cool stuff on it, especially details on DZ's guitar rig and a great video of Dweezil playing with Tenacious D!

Finally as I look at my first three concerts of 2010 I notice an interesting common thread. They're all shows with bands playing music from the sixties and seventies, dare I say "re-creating". My next concert is Yes, with some original members, but the keyboard player is the son of the original keyboardist (Rick Wakeman) and the lead singer is a replacement (who sounds exactly like Jon Anderson). That will be followed by Furthur, which is Bob Weir and Phil Lesh and several other talented musicians playing Grateful Dead songs. And of course I just saw Dweezil, faithfully performing his father's music. I'm not sure what it all means, I'll share my perspective over the next few weeks. Perhaps a few years from now all the shows that I go to will be cover bands consisting of sons and daughters of the original artists. But at this point I'm happy to see Dweezil any time he wants to bring his band to town and play some tasty Zappa tunes.

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