Dweezil Zappa Played Whatever The F@%k He Wanted!!
Dweezil celebrates half a century since his father’s first album and there’s not a hologram in sight
Words: Phil WellerPhotos: Anthony Firmin
After gigging with Prognosis on Saturday, conversation turned to how, in 2017, nothing is shocking anymore. It’s all been done before; we’ve become desensitised to the graphic, the vulgar and the rancid. But, over here to celebrate 50 years of his father’s music – 51 for the pedantic amongst you – Dweezil Zappa gushed out a set tonight chock full of music that sent shockwaves through the music industry in its time. Its unconventionality and penchant for ripping the theory books to shreds in order to create something daringly absurd, with its tongue always planted firmly in its cheek, but executed with the most rigorously drilled technical precision and musicianship, Zappa’s music has always been as stupid as it is intelligent. Tonight they play before a largely older audience which no doubt remembers the live lunacy of Frank. His son – the son who grew up with, was taught to play guitar by and toured with his father – is in the best position to celebrate his father’s legacy with the authenticity it deserves.
Indeed, laid out on the sparse merch tables tonight is a shirt on which, emblazoned in a neon pink font, declares “NO FAKE FRANK”. Retaliating to the possibilities of a Frank Zappa hologram, Dweezil has reacted just like you imagine his father would have. That being said, Frank was a cutting edge man with his heart in the future, and maybe his sick humour would have incorporated a digitalised immortalisation of himself into his own mad world. Either way, what we get tonight is truly real; it is raw yet precisely polished and most definitely human.
In true Zappa style the songs are seamlessly, albeit a little dizzyingly, lubed up and slotted tightly alongside one another. Early highlights, such as the erratic, predominantly acapella It Can’t Happen Here and the smooth swinging sounds of Motherly Love, with its typically razor sharp witted lyrics, set the night’s freakish tone. For Zappa fans it is complete indulgence.
On stage left long-time band member Scheila Gonzalez quietly steals the show with her multi-instrumental contributions, over the course of the evening she plays keyboards, a variety of saxophones, she sings, she squawks into a kazoo and dabbles in a bit of flute, too. And she does it all while dancing and really feeling the music. She typifies the type of personality Frank didn’t so much require as he did demand from his band members. To be in this band you have to be skilled, you have to be beyond excellent at what you do and while tonight’s band isn’t star studded, their collective musical excellency and capabilities are boundless.
Expectantly, the classic guitar noodlings of I'm The Slime, bolstered by punchy brass harmonies and the creepily seductive Dirty Love get huge responses from a loud and receptive three-tiered crowd. But it is the covers amongst the set that have fuelled the most conversation online. Monty Norman's James Bond Theme, a song rife with subtle but hugely effective musical flicks and tricks that Frank was evidently an admirer of goes down well, if it's inclusion is not a little unexpected. But it is the encore cover and closing salvo I Am The Walrus which has ruffled the feathers of a few fans. But Dweezil Zappa plays whatever the f**k he wants. It's a song his father has covered before and shares a kinsmanship with Zappa's musical experimentations, with gobbledegook lyrics and an almost comical musicality to its beat and feel, it actually rounds things off in a perfectly surprising way. Dweezil had earlier joked about his father’s ‘hit singles’, they were songs that should never have been popular and successful with thanks to their against-the-grain approach and fuck-givingless mentality. But, alas, they were. 51 years on his music still attracts sizable, if not a little nostalgic, crowds. As the audience files out, American Girl coos shyly from the PA. I don’t think anyone’s night has been ruined.