YaK:: WebLog #535 Topic : 2006-07-04 19.14.30 matt : Zappa Plays Zappa in Los Angeles [Changes]   [Calendar]   [Search]   [Index]   [PhotoTags]   
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Zappa Plays Zappa in Los Angeles

Geoff and I were in Los Angeles (his hometown) to see his family. We also saw the 'Zappa Plays Zappa' concert. A brief review follows.

I am a great appreciator of the work of Frank Zappa . I think he is the most outstanding composer in the last century, and moved the field of music composition forward in various innovative ways. I don't have every Zappa record ever made, and I don't like all of them equally. Some of them I don't like at all -- but I still listen to them to learn things about composition, and to appreciate the skill of the musicians playing. There's also, of course, the Conceptual Continuity .

Geoffhas never really cared for Frank Zappa -- I just couldn't get him into it, not that I tried really hard. I remember when we first started dating that I was playing Joe's Garage in my car and after a few songs he took the CD out and made me promise never to play it in his presence again. It was a little weird because Joe's Garage is one of his more accessible albums. Anyways, it was with this past experience that I told Geoff we were seeing 'Zappa Plays Zappa' in Los Angeles. I told him it was Frank's son, Dweezil, and a good group of Zappa alumni and younger musicians. He saw how important it was to me and asked me to figure out what they were playing in their set so he could know some of the songs before they went. I was encouraged by this reaction, so I set off to read concert reviews and ascertain an approximate set list.

Reading the reviews, they were pretty consistent. "It's not like Frank's shows -- there isn't as much humor, but they did a great job." was the approximated summary from most people who attended Frank Zappa shows. For those of us who didn't get the chance and just know the records, I can tell you it was still really kick ass. I'm sure there will be a CD and/or DVD out, so you can check it out then. If you play an instrument you have to see this show -- All the musicians were just so incredibly amazing, it will inspire you to push yourself further musically. But I digress -- I was able to find the set lists pretty quickly with a web search, and they were pretty consistent -- much like the reviews. Unfortunately, I never quite got around to making Geoff a mix CD of relevant songs. Doubly unfortunate, because there were several songs I had never heard before either. Thankfully, some of the really cool (and complicated) ones were all on Disc #2 of Zappa in New York , which I already owned. Specifically, the Black Page Parts 1 and 2. So, we listened to Zappa in New York, with a focus on Disc 2 during car rides and whatnot. He did start to comment that Pound for a Brown and Sofa sounded pretty cool, as well as being impressed by the Black Page (but liking part 2 much better).

So, we're in Los Angeles and we find parking. The tickets say "8:00PM", but we figure that's when the doors open. It was about 7:45PM, so we got something quick to eat at the Denny's. (If anyone knows a better, but quick, place around the Wiltern to eat, please let me know.) We stroll into the Wiltern around 8:25PM and... the show has already started. We come to find out it started at 8:00PM sharp . Fuck. I was so disappointed we missed Florentine Pogen, mainly, but also that we missed the opening number. Oh well. The show was so sold out, I wasn't able to get us seats right next to eachother, so Geoff was 2 rows behind me in about the same seat. Because of the way the rows were organized, though, there were no seats in the rows between us -- they were shifted over for some reason (maybe for wheelchairs?). I was sitting next to and older man with a long beard, who was obviously an old-time Zappa fan. He was into everything, but not too much so (unlike Geoff's crazy person who screamed obscenities through the whole show). There was a crazy guy at one of the last Duran Duran shows I went to in 2001. (I haven't seen them since Warren Cuccurullo left and they "re-formed" the original band.) This guy at that Duran Duran show was screaming before, during, and after songs, at the top of his lungs, "SIMON!!!!! PLAY 'ALL ALONG THE WATER!!!!'". Someone eventually complained and he was removed by security folks. If you're going to scream for them to play a song, it had better be a better one than fucking All Along the Water. (The album that song is from, Liberty , isn't their worst album. It's actually got some good bits of music on it, like My Antarctica and Venice Drowning if you can get through the whole thing.)

Other show highlights include Diva Zappa dancing not-quite-off-stage for most of the night, and very-much-on-stage at the request of Dweezil during the Black Page Part 2. They didn't play Black Page Part 1, unfortunately, because Terry Bozzio had injured his arm a few days previously. (Here are photos of the injured arm .) It was good to see Joe Travers playing again, who toured with Duran Duran. The last time I saw him he was attending the Missing Persons concert in LA back in 2001. The best part was his vocal participation in the show. I really wished Duran Duran had moved more toward full band participation on backing vocals rather than sequencing more and more of the song so that Simon doesn't have to try to hit certain notes more than necessary. I really loved the 1999 Duran Duran shows with Warren and Wes Wehmiller doing a lot of the backing vocals. In 2000 or so they just stopped singing altogether, leaving only the pre-recorded sequences, making everything sound really flat and stale. Getting off the Duran Duran tangent again (I should really just do a post about them, and soon), there was not a hint of that flatness at the ZPZ show. Almost everybody was doing vocals, except Dweezil -- I'm not sure why that is. They keyboardist and saxophonist were FUCKING AMAZING . Each of them got solos throughout the show that just blew Geoff and I away, and their parts in the mini-orchestra that unfolded in front of us over the course of the concert were also truly inspiring. I wasn't as into Terry Bozzio's songs where he 'sings' -- nothing to do with Terry, whose CD I bought and really like, I just never cared for Punky's Whips, etc. I've never been really into Steve Vai either, but one can't deny his crazy talent. At one point, he was finger tapping strings with one hand while holding the guitar up by the whammy bar. The zillion notes per second isn't interesting to me, but it's nonetheless impressive to witness.

I am so glad I was fortunate enough to see the concert and share the experience with Geoff. He wasn't as into it as I was, but he was a real good sport and it meant a lot to me for him to be there. I highly recommend EVERYONE go see them again when they set out in the fall.


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