Egg, Aug. 5
The dude can’t read a note of music, reportedly. Therefore,
bandleader Dweezil Zappa clearly did a ton of woodshedding
to turn himself into the amazing guitarist who performed his
late father Frank’s music to a sold-out crowd at the Egg.
Leading a six-piece ensemble of superb musicians (plus “guest”
singer-guitarist Ray White, who handled the difficult vocals
admirably), Zappa the younger played some of Zappa the elder’s
most exhilarating music.
Where to begin? How about near the end, with the band’s workout
on the instrumental “King Kong.” It was everything a Zappaphile
could hope for: a fierce jazz-rock-prog monster with ferocious
soloing by all on stage. It ended appropriately with Dweezil
“conducting” the band (and, ultimately, the audience) into
making a joyous squawk (squonk?), just like dear old dad did,
back in the day.
Though, judging from the footage I’ve seen, in the old days,
Frank’s band always seemed a little scared of his Bugs Bunny-as-Stokowski
conducting bit. Both Dweezil and this band are more laid-back.
Over three decades, Frank Zappa composed some hellaciously
complex music. He also composed nifty pop tunes, atmospheric
mood pieces and crappy novelty tunes. The “Zappa Plays Zappa”
band offered a little of each. An instrumental mélange nicknamed
“The Trifecta,” which included “Peaches en Regalia” and “G-Spot
Tornado,” was one highlight; “San Ber’dino” was another. As
someone who once listened to the eerie ditty “The Idiot Bastard
Son” 11 times in a row, half-hypnotized (and half-drunk),
hearing it live was a treat. And Dweezil’s playing on “Outside
Now” and “He Used to Cut the Grass” (from Joe’s Garage)
was epic and moving.
Unfortunately, some of Frank Zappa’s mid-to-late-’70s comic
material has not aged well. (When Dweezil had plug-in problems
that ended “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” abruptly, I wasn’t
disappointed.) On albums like Sheik Yerbouti, he was
satirizing music he didn’t like, with lyrics more bilious
than humorous. I could happily have never heard “Flakes” again,
save for its sharp Bob Dylan parody; unfortunately, reed player-singer
Scheila Gonzalez sang the Dylan part as Eric Cartman instead.
She does a good Cartman, but the point is lost.
But that’s just minor quibbling. I went in cold, waiting (and
wanting) to be pleasantly surprised by what the not-always-lovable
Zappy Family Trust and its scion had to offer. Short answer?
I was. And they offered plenty.
the other hand, there was Adam Levine of Maroon
5 doing his singerly shtick at SPAC Tuesday night (Aug.
12). The Los Angeles-based band came through town in support
of their latest album, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long,
and while sales of the record have trailed off, the band continue
to make their reputation on the road—say what you will about
the band’s music (we won’t), but as certain, unnamed members
of our staff will attest, Maroon 5 are a very good live act.
Tuesday’s bill also featured Counting Crows and up-and-comer