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LIVE: DWEEZIL ZAPPA, Perth – 27 Feb 2018

| 1 March 2018 | Reply

LIVE: DWEEZIL ZAPPA, Perth – 27 Feb 2018
The Astor Theatre, Perth, Western Australia; Tuesday, 27 February, 2018
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Stuart McKay

“We’re gonna be playing a lot of my Dad’s music tonight,” says a nonchalant Dweezil Zappa, and it’s exactly what the nearly-full Astor Theatre crowd want to hear. Not that we wouldn’t relish the chance to hear Dweezil’s own music live – this was a super-rare opportunity to hear Frank’s eclectic, sometimes bizarre, sometimes avant-garde, always musically fascinating compositions first hand, played with the respect they deserve.

And what a band Zappa has assembled for the task – which was originally a continuation of his Zappa Plays Zappa band until siblings Ahmet & Diva, now controlling the Zappa Family Trust, refused to allow him to refer directly to Frank’s family name at all; instead, the tour is titled Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever The F@%k He Wants – pocket rocket Cian Coey is a belter with a raunchy vocal that gets right up into Roy Estrada’s performance on Overnight Sensation favourite Zombie Woof, the story of the infamous Illinois Enema Bandit Harry Kenyon, a super-groovy, hot & moist Keep It Greasy and other classics, and unstoppable energy to match. Scheila Gonzales, as well as honking on multiple saxophones – none better than on Pound For A Brown On The Bus – a flute through Inca Roads, tambourine and adding keys to the mix, sung Suzy Creamcheese and the hyperactive surf-groove of Lemme Take You To The Beach, as well as pogoing like a punk loon through I’m So Cute.

Keyboardist Chris Newton replicates all manner of percussion and Ruth Underwood’s famous marimba and xylophone parts, as well as contributing vocals to early Mothers Of Invention tracks Call Any Vegetable and Who Needs The Peace Corps.

If there’s one song which will test the mettle of any musician bold enough to say, ‘and tonight I will be performing Frank Zappa,’ it’s Inca Roads. Recorded in 1975 and full of intricate chord structures, many time changes, and rampant instrumental passages for all involved, the band surpass themselves with faultless delivery, not least of all the amazingly adept bass player Kurt Morgan.

Drummer Ryan Brown plays a meticulous version of Zappa’s The Black Page Drum Solo that has to be seen and heard to be believed, and guest trumpeter, Aussie Kendal Cuneo, had the whole band bouncing whilst she sang I’m So Cute.

That only leaves one more player on stage: One Dweezil Zappa. All I can say is that apple has not fallen far from the tree with this one. Frank’s fans know that he was more than a satirist, more than a wondrous, multi-genre composer, he was a virtuoso electric guitarist, and Dweezil – who enjoyed not only Frank as a teacher, but also friends Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen and others – is every bit as good, actually making these intricate, searing solos (played on Frank’s vintage Gibson SGs) look effortless, and getting mid-song ovations as he did.

He’s also so respectful of his team, often stopping and looking in admiration as they take a solo spot. That respect goes for the audience as well, with sincere thanks being proferred often, and at one point he plucks the youngest crowd member he can see up to the stage – a primary school-aged chap named Joel – and asks, “do you play guitar?” No… “well, you do now!” and proceeds to move his hands in an instant, interactive guitar lesson before letting the kid have a bash himself, to the delight of the crowd.

As quirky as his Dad, Dweezil then follows this bit of fun with one of Frank’s most beautiful compositions, the instrumental Watermelon In Easter Hay, which the younger Zappa cites as his favourite of his Dad’s guitar solos. It’s simply stunning, and you could hear a pin drop throughout the theatre while he performed it with gentle grace.

With a band as good as this you can bet that the crowd was far more than just middle-aged blokes – local musos were studded around the room studying intently.

Cheepnis is seriously intricate, bridging the gap between Frank’s ‘60s psych-outs and his ‘70s rock, while The Son Of Orange County – originally skewering Nixon, but now entirely appropriately targeting the current White House incumbent – is another blast from the past. Finally, another early Mothers song, Trouble Every Day, proves to be the most re-invented tune of the night, transformed into a soul groove and slowed to a sexy grind, now with added snippets of The Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive!

The band finished with a triple-whammy shot from 1975’s One Size Fits All – Sofa No 1, Po-Jama People and Florentine Pogen, that again dazzle with their musical dexterity.

With so much talent on stage it’s hard to pick a stand-out – but the answer, of course, is the brightest star on show, the late, great Frank Zappa. “His music is STILL ahead of its time,” Dweezil accurately remarks at one point, underlining the fact that no-one – NO-ONE – makes music with as much breadth, depth, diversity and sheer musicality as his much-missed Dad did.

Set List:
Set 1:
Zomby Woof
Suzy Creamcheese
Call Any Vegetable
Lemme Take You to the Beach
Who Needs the Peace Corps?
What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning?
She Painted Up Her Face
Inca Roads
I’m So Cute
The Illinois Enema Bandit
Watermelon in Easter Hay
Keep It Greasey
A Pound for a Brown on the Bus

Set 2:
You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
Harry, You’re a Beast
The Orange County Lumber Truck
Flower Punk
The Black Page Drum Solo
The Black Page #2
Teen-Age Wind
Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus
Cheepnis
Son of Orange County
Trouble Every Day

Encore:
Sofa No. 1
Po-Jama People
Florentine Pogen

Shane

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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