Donnelly: Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa@The Midland by AMC, August 26, 2011

 

You could tell Dweezil was having a great time from the moment he and his band walked onto the Midland stage a few minutes early at 7:56. 

He was all smiles as he announced, "We’re gonna start this with something kinda fun that you can dance to."

The eight piece band launched into the Zappa classic, Dancin’ Fool, sounding in sync and full, with the distinctive sound of jazz xylophone accentuating the rare musical style that Frank Zappa explored.  It became quickly apparent who the real fans in the audience were.

I mean, people who really like Zappa are, well let’s just be honest, a little bit eccentric usually, right?

You have to be slightly twisted deep inside to truly appreciate what Frank Zappa did for years with his unique brand of music.  He put premiums on extremely complex rhythms, mixed with the most off-the-wall lyrics and storytelling, mixed with an ethos that always tried new and weird things just for their own sake. 

So like I was saying, people that like Frank Zappa REALLY like Frank Zappa.

I counted at least three standing ovations during Dweezil’s hour long set…

The first of which came after Chick Corea joined the band on a version of King Kong that saw he and Dweezil exchange rapid fire call and response improvisation.  Chick tore up a small keyboard that had a synth-y buzzing tone, bending notes and using both hands to create speedy runs up and down the scales.

Dweezil tried to keep up on his Gibson SG, and showed off his ample chops as well, but at times looked just happy to be standing there onstage with such a legend in Corea.  He seemed more than willing to defer to the master whose plunking got faster and faster until the band jumped back into the melody and ended on a fat chord.

Smiles all around as the crowd came to their feet howling. 

The next song, Big Swifty, is partly about what happens when you take too much acid and end up having a weird encounter with a unicorn. 

The tune featured a nice bass solo from Pete Griffin to go along with the thumping bass drum of Joe Travers, as the band settled into a little funk groove.

And I guess that’s the thing about Zappa – it’s an exercise in extremes.  Ridiculously complex and asymmetrical rhythms, odd chord progressions, random twists and turns that challenge the musicians, coupled with lyrics about doggy wee-wee.

Did someone say doggy wee-wee?

Next up was Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow, probably the best tune of the night.  Singer Ben Thomas did a great job recreating the nuances of the classic vocals, all the way down to the dog doo snow cone.  That segued into Nanook Rubs It, into St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast

Dweezil beamed again, looking as un-frontman like as any rocker I can remember.  There was no, "Is Kansas City ready to rock?!?"  No, instead Dweezil mostly allowed his band to carry the night, acting as the polite and capable guitarist, introducing each song and just enjoying himself.

"This last song is off the album Hot Rats, it’s called Willie the Pimp," announced Dweezil moments before he unleashed the signature swanky guitar line.  Before the song ended the crowd was already on their feet, and they offered the band a long and enthusiastic ovation, begging for a little more. 

Then Dweezil and his band mates stayed onstage, shaking hands and thanking the audience for their appreciation. 

Even after the equipment was being carted away, Dweezil re-emerged front stage right to take pictures, sign autographs, and high five a large line of fans that wanted to have their moment with the next best to thing Frank himself.

Setlist:

Dancin’ Fool, Fifty Five, Pajama People, Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?, King Kong, Big Swifty, Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow/Nanook Rubs It/St. Alfonso’s Pancake Breakfast, Willie the Pimp 

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4 Responses to Donnelly: Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa@The Midland by AMC, August 26, 2011

  1. kcfred says:

    great show
    It was a great show, even better here in KC than StL the night before. What about RTF? Did you stay for that? Wasn’t Jean Luc Ponty great? Just what RTF needed to fill out that sound, right? Lenny White still sounds a step behind and Stanley Clarke has no peer. You’re welcome.
    Review incomplete. Never have seen anyone just review the opening act. Color me disapointed.

  2. Matt says:

    Unfortunately,
    fred, I couldn’t stick around for much of the RTF show, though I did catch the first few songs where it seemed the band was trying to work out some sound kinks. I heard they figured it all out and put on a great show the rest of thew way. Next time, I guess…

  3. smartman says:

    JLP
    One of the BEST SOUNDING ALBUMS EVER! Cosmic Messenger by Jean Luc Ponty. Get it on vinyl and be prepared to get BLOWN AWAY!

  4. PB says:

    Great Show
    All around. Dweezil and band were the perfect opener for RTF (although I still get the feeling of tribute band, would love to see this outfit produce some original music..oh well, minor quibble), but when Corea, Clarke & Co. hit the stage is when the show really took off. Yes, some minor technical glitches with the mix for Ponty and Clarke during the early going, but it was quickly corrected and the band soared after that. I thought they all really shined during the acoustic portion…just WOW on Clarke. Two straight hours of great music from five virtuosos. Great week as I got to see three of my favorite 70s era bands (Steely Dan, RTF and Tower of Power) for the very first time and each was nothing short of amazing. Ah the days when popular music was produced by real musicians instead of all the autotune/manufactured crap that dominates the current airwaves.

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