Live Review: Zappa Plays Zappa

14 April 2012 | 1:31 pm | Brent Balinski

Dweezil managed his father’s guitar pyrotechnics, just with less obnoxiousness.

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Picking a set out of the late Frank Zappa's 62-album career (though if you count the records that keep coming out of the vault posthumously, the number is much higher) is a tall order in itself. Matching the musically spastic, often “statistically dense” playing is another. Frank's firstborn Dweezil and his band did a reasonable job with both.

Zappa Plays Zappa favoured Frank's older stuff and almost everything the Metro heard was pre-Ike Willis material. Sexual Harassment In The Workplace got things going, before Plastic People and Hungry Freaks, Daddy brought things back to the Mothers Of Invention era, where they remained for most of the evening. Dweezil managed his father's guitar pyrotechnics, just with less obnoxiousness. And he's probably used the line a thousand times before, but when he was interrupted by a punter and replied with, “Yes, that's my name; I see you have my dad on your shirt”, it's still amusing.

The smooth, almost GRP Records-ish Blessed Relief was a break from the grating though brilliant old school Frank and Dweezil explained that it's one of few songs with a beautiful melody that his dad “chose not to fuck up”.

The post-intermission set showed off Ben Thomas' mastery of not just Frank's distinctive vocal honk in Trouble Every Day, but his freewheeling stage banter and gentle contempt for his audience. Joe Travers' drum solo was clinical and dull and had none of the fire that Zappa Senior's better drummers – say Terry Bozzio and Vinnie Colaiuta – might have shown.

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The two Sheik Yerbouti numbers City Of Tiny Lites and Dancin' Fool were highlights, while the set closed, of course, with an extended Whipping Post jam, which a very, very young Dweezil used to guest on in his dad's band.

As with any good tribute act, Zappa Plays Zappa will have re-kindled the curiosity of many old fans in the audience, many of whom probably went home to put on Freak Out! or trawl for old footage of Frank on YouTube, outwitting hapless interviewers or putting his band through all sorts of bizarre hoops onstage. Dweezil and co. put on a good show and predictably reminded us of how irreplaceable his dad was.