Venue: Bridgewater Hall
After being out in the rain whilst being in a car and then walking through Manchester, I finally made my stop at Bridgewater Hall. I only found out this band was touring about a week or so ago, and once told about it, I was quite surprised. Dweezil Zappa brings his band to Manchester, attempting to bring back the feel and music of which his father, Frank, once played. This music helped to inspire a few artists and their albums, Devin Townsend's Deconstruction and Steve Vai's Flex-able Leftovers just to name a few. The place had a half decent audience, though it was quite sad to see the lack of people who are the same age as me - pre 22.
The first half of this performance is the entirety of Roxy & Elsewhere, celebrating its 40th birthday coming from the recordings on early-mid December in 1973. The music flowed throughout the first part of the set, the Roxy and Elsewhere album, as it was released in the early 70s on a vinyl, it has four sides to it. The set opened up with “The Gumbo Variations” and then starts with the first part of R&E was "Penguin in Bondage”, “Pygwy Twylyte” and “Dummy Up”. As this starts playing, it already sounds so close to Frank Zappa's version, with Dweezil being the guitar virtuoso he keeps the rhythm nice and his playing to perfection. The multi-instrumentalist Scheila Gonzalez deserves credit - starting from this performance, and throughout the show. Her voice is beautiful and soulful, and at times shows a great amount of power in the performance.
Vocalist Ben Thomas is as close to sounding like Frank Zappa as anyone will get, his is amazing when it comes to matching the same notes pretty identically and it's nice to listen. With his’ and Scheila’s duo performances whilst the other performers keep a groove, they sing the songs whilst having some fun, keeping the crowd amused. The most anticipated highlight I had was going to be the “Be-Bop Tango”, an epic which got the whole audience on their feet and doing hilarious dances whilst Chris Norton does the thing on the keyboard. Some people got onto the stage, though some of them seemed staged - it was still fucking hilarious to watch, especially the woman called Trouble, and even though it was predictable, it was quite fun to find out that she was Dweezil's wife.
Whilst starting off each side after the performances, Dweezil gives great back stories to how some of these songs came to be. He gives flashbacks to his childhood sometimes and it's great to imagine what he's saying from his or his father's perspective, a good vision to keep in your head and considering someone my age, I wasn't even a tadpole when all of Frank Zappa's stuff was made, it was vital to use my imagination to keep me flowing and my interest consistent. I loved all of the songs that were play through the ‘first act’, as Roxy and Elsewhere was almost perfect (there were a few minor technical difficulties but it's barely anything to judge on,) and was amazing to hear it played brilliantly. No other tribute act could've pulled that off, Dweezil is the only person, along with his band, who could do that and it would never be done the same by anyone else in the world with the same feel, emotion and talent that radiated from these guys.
After the intermission came another hour and half of amazing and unique music, and again (without any doubt really) the music was played to perfection and was enjoyable to watch. We have “The Black Page” story, and also the song what was received greatly, everybody, though a small audience, stayed loyal to the show through the show and continued to do so.
“I Come From Nowhere” was brilliant, to re-cap what I said about Dweezil giving facts: his story about this song was great to listen to, and when the song played, it was even better, the music was brilliant, vocals, out of tune, but still, funny and wonderful.
One of my favourite Zappa songs, “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes”, was fun as well, I never imagined to ever hear that song live in my life and when I did I was stunned at how great it is. Ryan Brown (eventually mentioned!) has been great throughout the night, his great solos have been swell to hear, and listening to him screech: “You know what you are / you're an asshole!” for the introduction, well it made me smile.
The band leaves the stage and almost immediately everyone is shouting for an encore, and we got that encore! Hearing “Cosmik Debris” and “Muffin Man” was what a lot of people were expecting from the encore, and it was nice to hear. Dweezil, though instrumentally perfect, seemed a bit less arsed with speaking compared to some YouTube videos I've seen of Zappa Plays Zappa, nothing too worrying but it must be fatigue due to the tour. With a nice summary it was brilliant, one of the best tribute acts I have ever seen if I am honest (and I'm not a fan of tribute acts,) played by no one else but the son of one of the most influential people in the world of classic rock and jazz fusion. Zappa Plays Zappa were great, it was a brilliant performance which for fans of Frank Zappa from the 60s and 70s would've been the ultimate nostalgia trip for them, and for a young audience it would've been rather refreshing from the music scene surrounding us at the moment.