As I awoke on this day a calm came over the horizon. While any given Hallow's Eve can have it's share of vampires, ghosts and goblins, on this unique occasion, the audience at the Beacon theatre witnessed the living spirit of Frank Zappa come down, lay grace upon his son and all in his presence. Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa honored Frank Zappa's Roxy & Elshewhere at The Beacon Theatre, and but also, a diverse set of unique and traditional Halloween numbers. While Zappa In New York on Hallow's Eve is long celebrated in traditions, many folks could sense that what was happening was beyond the celebration of the 40th anniversary of a landmark album and collection of traditional Halloween numbers.
The history of Zappa concerts In New York is rooted in acceptance of the composers intent. While the composer was always on duty, it was unfortunate that space and time was an affliction to those around it. Conventional views often had a hard time understanding what was happening. Even in the Classical sense, when orchestras performed his works, they too had a hard time with Frank's unique nomenclature. The little black dots on paper that the composer wrote give very specific instructions. When someone rearranges or does not excplicitly follow the score, it's not much different than those that can not comprehend the composers work because they're conditioned to whatever modern day wallpaper designs exist in their social lifestyle. So, in the tradition of the Zappa Hallow's eve celebration, barriers were broken down. At least on this day, it seemed like average everyday people opened their eyes and ears a bit more to what Frank was doing. While it's still tough to get by the Kardashian mindset, Halloween remains that time where it's easier to keep the pod bay door of thought open to the composers intent.
So put yourself into the physical matter of The Beacon Theatre The venue was commissioned by a guy named "Roxy" Rothafel in 1927. While that may be enough to bridge Conceptual Continuity we can look further into the decor. There is a pastiche of Greek, Roman, Renaissance, Rococo and Moorish murals and sculptures throughout the theatre. Not to be fooled by some of the visions of trade and war that are inside the main theatre seating area, but as you enter, above the main doors in the grand foyer, there is a mural that depicts a horizon of the alps of Italy leading down into the tranquillity of the Northern Roman countryside. It is here where I envision Frank high above in the clouds, sitting on a fat floating sofa. He's eating arancini(rice balls), smoking cigarettes and drinking copious amounts of black coffee.
When Frank last performed in Gotham it was here at The Beacon Theatre. While February of 1988 seems like a long time ago, for the last 7 years Dweeezil and his band have been digging deep into the composers cannon. Fittingly Dweezil and his band have once again returned here. While a good portion of the show is showcasing numbers they have been playing on the road for several months, on this night the audience was graced with a number of traditional Halloween numbers and a long awaited special surprise, the later was more-so a miracle than unexpected perfection of a long awaited vigil song becoming a reality.
For the first few hours all that one expected and unexpected took place at The Beacon. The band each had dressed in regalia for the Halloween occasion. A sampling of some of the band member and audience costumes. Dweezil wore a surreal Frankenstein Mask. The opening number was Gumbo Variations, as DZ performed the essence of being happy-to-be-alive was more-so the joyfulness aspect of Frankestein's personality. Dweezil would do these bobble head movements that attenuated that character's good hearted nature. Ben Thomas was a large and slinky purple Snake, this character played it's way into many numbers. Ben has repeatedly solidified his vocal prowess and multi-instrumental contributions to the program. The Evil Prince is a really fine example of where Ben shines in both theatrics and vocality. Scheila Gonzalez was a Pseudo-Teen-age Prostitute, her stage theatrics were abundant in Teen-age Prostitute and I Come From Nowhere, The Teen-Age Prostitute leg kick was reminiscent of a gal that was down on her luck, stuck in the killer fog of a narcotic street life. I Come from Nowhere is one of those numbers that Frank had never performed live. How Frank went about turning dissonant vocal parts into the studio nirvana, this finally all fits in so well on the live stage. To see this play itself out and hear Dweezil explain not only how Frank worked in the studio but shared it with him. This plays out like a Felini film. Chris Nortor's costume unfolded itself in the middle of the program. The Apollo character played into the Beacon décor. If my memory serves me, Apollo was assembled and came to life, tin foil and all, during the performance of Teen-age Wind. Wino Devil of the year award goes to Pete Jones. He played an Wino Oversized Penis Wielding Devil. Pete has the uncanny ability to harness the vocal energy of Ricky Lancelotti.
Many in the audience danced like they had never danced before. While they all got a chance to get up out of their seats and share their terpsichorean ejectamenta a chosen few made it onto the Beacon stage for The Be Bop Tango. The highlight of Audience Participation time was a guy that wore a FZ "Rental" T-Shirt. Dweezil called him Rental. One if not the loudest audience applause that I've witnessed during Audience Participation Time. There was one gal that was a professional dancer/trainer by trade. She was seemingly stuck to dancing with the pedestrian beat. Those familiar with The Be Bop Tango clearly know that the explicit instructions of the composer is to dance to the quick and funny little jazz notes that are played and sung by the keyboardist. These directions are given in the song and once again this is an example where professionals have a hard time following the composers intent. An attempt was made by a guy dressed up like the Frank Zappa character on the We're Only In It For The Money layout. Yet another attempt stuck into the adagio mode.
After the Roxy set the audience continued to share in a diverse selection of songs, including several traditional Halloween numbers(The Torture Never Stops, Goblin Girl and The Evil Prince). It was unique how the audience could change gears from dancing with depraved abandon to sitting quietly with all eyes and ears on the composition. In the Duke Of Prunes, the Orchestral Arrangement was performed. In the middle of intricate interweaving of instrumentation, Dweezil was controlling the feedback of his Startocaster with the finest icing anointment utensil. Not only did he poot forth with perfection, but in the end showed how a musical phrase from that number made it's way into Zoot Allures.
While I am sure that the Beacon crowd had some new fans of Frank's music, many had lived their life at a metaphorical Zappa University. Many had long ago learned to Dummy Up and smoke the tapes of the composers intent. This too plays itslef out in Dummy Up from Roxy & Elsewhere. The concert frequently had choreography to go along with the musical performance. One can only immagine that the series of ZPZ Roxy shows this December will have DZs video team on hand. By this time this writer, typos and all, has seen more than 100 official Frank Zappa and Dweezil Zappa performances. I state this to bring note to where the sound on this particular evening was as good as it has ever been at a Frank Zappa or Dweezil Zappa concert. While I had sat at the sound booth area for a number of shows, on this occasion something special was brewing in the clouds of Aural NLightenment. While a gremlin tried it's best to make it into Scheila's microphone during The Torture Never Stops the mute seemingly more-so came down from the mural in the lobby. More on that later. Dweezil and his band always give a much as due diligence as possible to get the music done right. In the case of the rock and roll numbers, the composers score is frequently what exists on the tape. The band use that score. Due diligence and consummate professionalism come out each and every performance. The perfect acoustics and performance never sounded as vivid as it did on this Hallow's eve at The Beacon.
So here we are near the end of the concert. As The Torture Never Stops comes to an end we can see Dweezil change over from The Roxy SG to the Stratocaster painted with FZs picture. With a tear in Dweezil's eye we could sense that a vigil was taking place. You could see that Frank Zappa's spirit had come down and entered Dweezil's being. It left that mural in the lobby and was ready to be a part of one of the most difficult songs that a son could ever perform in his life.
How can someone approach performing such a large portion of his fathers cannon with the highest level of standards? There is a sense that goes way beyond that, to where specific songs are seemingly impossible to play. Not so much for the statistical density of the notes, but ever more-so for the emotional factor attached to it. With some songs, just listening to it on the record could break a loved one into tears. Regarding Watermelon In Easter Hay, Dweezil has shared that sentiment for years. While the vigil candle is always lit, on this occasion, Watermelon In Easter Hay was to be premièred. There was no announcement, there was no entry on a setlist. Yet some could see this was the time. The hall became quiet with all eyes and ears fixed center stage. Dweezil was about to take himself into a place of the heavy-at-heart. It's as if a heavy Watermelon plopped down in a basket of Easter Hay. Frank had stated that is how difficult it was to get a good air sculpture out of the 77' Zappa band that first worked on building that composition, but this Easter basket, what was being presented on Halloween was a different demon to tackle.
Dweezil and the band performed Watermelon In Easter Hay for the first time. Dweezil the man was in communion with his father. If there is a God, If there are Saints, If there are Miracles. All three were accounted for. Dweezil was possessed by the living spirit of his father. It was beyond perfect note and tone. Dweezil Zappa had to perform this through the tracks of his tears. As I observed him on the stage, his appearance was beyond a man that was giving honour to his father. It's as if his father came down and got into his shoes. Dweezil the man was playing, Dweezil the man was crying, Frank's spirit not only layed a hand upon the shoulder of his son, he shared all aspects of performance and emotion by entering his son's shoes.
For those familiar with Dweezil's physical approach to performing on guitar, while he may at times emulate his father's playing with harmonic convergence, he does maintain a level of unique compositional structure in his solos. Not only his air sculptures but his performance stature when playing. That is often unique. He could play many songs and solos note for note as his father had. He could perform some of the most difficult written parts(marimba and keyboards) that were never done on guitar, or he could invent many of his own air sculptures with it's own unique fabric tones. So as time moved and the song began it got to the point where Dweezil would meet the demon head on. To think of playing this song live, the metaphor could be a heavy burden that was absolved where the Watermelon calmly sat amongst the Beacon Easter Hay. As each measure of 5/4 and 4/4 time of Watermelon In Easter Hay went by. The matter of space and time, Frank's spirit was there. You could see it in every measure. Those familiar chords that go by. Dweezil's performance stature was Frank and Dweezil living in the same physical matter.
The audience was in complete silence with their eyes and ears on the miracle that what was happening center stage. The physical matter, the living realm of the spirit of Frank was with Dweezil for this vigil. Dweezil cried, Dweezil played. It's so hard to communicate this is merely human words. I am fearful that some may take it the wrong way, but the notes and tone Dweezil gave, in my opinion this was an offering where performance was as perfect as the composer chiselled with his artistic intent, but just as important is the miracle of the spirit of his father being there with him. There is no way to understand what it is like to walk in Dweezil shoes. In this performance there was a communion of Father and Son. My heart, eyes and ears.... . Thank You Dweezil Zappa. The love you share with your father. I am proud to have shared in that communion. My senses will forever live in the presence of the spirit....Read more
Some brief commentary on the ZPZ show at The Gramercy yesterday evening.
Not to forget the Roxy & Elsehwere part of the program but from a given perspective there was an aspect to the Gramercy show that kindled the spirit of the Ritz club date that FZ had done shortly after the Palldium Halloween 81' run. Remakable band performance at a club venue, tight knit enthusiastic crowd and a special guest surprise fits the bill. As the tour is rolling along some additions have made it into the setlist, and but also, special guests make their way into the show. Yesterday it was James Santiago joining in for Zomby Woof. While it's not necessary to make comparisons between Al Dimeola and James Santiago, the special guest entry into the program was one of a number of treats that have and will continue to unfold during the tour. Tonight is Halloween. Expect the Unexpected.
Many may be familiar of James's work. One can only dream of the music that takes place in the Santiago/Gonzalez household. It can make one think of Ian and Ruth Underwood. When soo much talent not only lives under the same roof but makes it's way to the Zappa stage. WOW. Judging by not only my impression but the response from the crowd, I'd have to say that this long awaited guest spot was met with open arms and ears.
Many a raod warior made their way to the first of two Halloween area shows. The road traveled by Richard Drake and Joe G is quite remarkable. They had each witnessed one of the two Orchestral 200 Motels performaces. The pre and post show conversations of that event with these folks and Scoremeister Kurt Morgan solidified any questions folks may have had about the composers intent. Frank had a specific way he wanted things done and the World premiere and London show was a chance to get it done it right. I'd like to thank Richard for his generocity. I'm looking forward to listening to The Brass From Utopia CD from The Norwegian Wind Ensemble. Feedback on that at a later date. but back to some of the road warriors.
While many a NYC regugular was there, props to DavidD for making it in from Houston Texas with a brigade. One of his tennis students attended the Dweezilla On The Road class. She is a beginner guitarist. Her commentary to me showed yet another example of how valuable these classses are. If there are folks out there contemplating Dweezilla On The Road, this is an amazIng opportunity for all level of guitarists. Tom Waring and Charlie Boswell were there. The work they put into Dweezil's records and videos. May time be kind where we all get to enjoy the many projects that are awaiting release. There were many NYC regulars, it's always great to see them at the shows, but in this short time the audience participation section in the Be Bop Tango shows how new names and faces make their way into the Zappa folclore.
Let me conclude with how amazing the band is sounding. They continue to evolve, where each musician has many parts. It's all laid out in the score. These folks not only give the necessary due-dilligence in their studies, but they perfect their ability to get the job done as good as it can be done. There will be those times where technical difficultites are the gremlins and demons. There were a few yesterday. While Dweezil downlaods all his fractal patches before the show, on this occasion the Violin Guitar preset was not to be found during the opening number of Gumbo Variations. It's unfortunate that there is not always time to stop the show and get it in there, so on this occasion the violin solo section did not happen, but as it may be an uncomfortable way to start a show the number and program was performed remarkably well. I think it's more of a curve ball for the audience to adjust to.
Speaking of gremlin curve balls. After the first set there was a scare that the show could not go on. This was reminiscent to the time when a fan threw a beer on the PA board during a Beacon 88' Zappa show. Yesterday evening an important component lost power during intermission. When a device does not shut down by normal-prosedure-means that could be a bad thing. There was a scare where it may have fried and the show could not go on, but Glynn Wood and the crew got things up and running. Props to the crew for not only getting things up and running, and but also, kharma of good will.
There is just far too many good things to say about this tour. Between the ZPZ Roxy & Elsewhere tour and the 200 Motels Orchestral shows there is a marriage of the composers intent that is alive and well in 2013. The score has always been there. Sometimes it's written out in FZs unique form of writing little black dots on paper for orchestras and sometimes the score lives on a tape. It's clear that the statistical density of the living matter is a living thing of the physical matter. We observe that with our senses. Thanks to Scoremeister Kurt Morgan for all his hard work with the the orchestral side of things. From orchestral to ensembles. May they follow Frank's unique orchestral nomenclature, with it's unconventional methods, may they remain true to form with the composers intent. As Dweezil and his bandmates have done since 2006. The music continues to be performed on a level that no one had ever expected would happen again. My deepest sincerty to all. The tribute word is used too freely in the musical world. Dweezil Zappa World is a unique form of tribute that is as true as it ever can get.
I am currently short on time here, but I rest assured that this show was something special. Tonight is Halloween. Get your costumes ready for another special Zappa Hallowen tradition...... Can we dare to dream of a very special song.
Happy Halloween Everybody...Read more
Zappa Plays Zappa - Cosmic Debris Terpsichorean Ejectamenta (Blizzard NEMO version)
Harrah's Atlantic City, NJ February 8 , 2013...Read more
One never knows when there is a moment in the show that allows for deviation from the norm. I had received a nice report on some of the unique moments of recent UK Tour Dates. (Why Thank You Sir Richard Drakes). Not that there is anything wrong with the unique rythm section that appeared on DZPZs West Coast 2012 Tour. (Yes, lets not forget to mention those N'Lightening Snapshots captured on Dweezil Zappa F.O.H. III Out Of Obscurity.) In regards to the up to date moments, where the band is presently out there on the road. You know, the one that does not mind getting into a tour bus(Yes they too have an amazing new rythm section. Kurt Morgan, Thank You Too Very Much ) Well they too have been adding not only their own unique rhythmic N'Lightenment and but also some unique musical passages that come from the folklore of living on the road. This may not be the place to divulge the regalia of it all but what is clear is the nature of which this band not only learns the orchestration of the composers works and but also can bring their own life to the concert hall. To be Continued.........Read more