|Zappa Plays Zappa @ Rams Head Live--Baltimore, MD. 2-6-2013|
Photos By Jeanette Garcia Polasky
Zappa Plays Zappa is top-notch band. Each musician executes his or her part with precision and without hesitation, producing an unshakeable oneness with the music. Their shows offer traditional arrangements and stylistic renditions of songs from all stages of Frank Zappa's career.
Their performance at Rams Head Live on Feb. 6 was no exception. Songs like "Hungry Freaks, Daddy," "Dirty Love," Montana," and "Who Are the Brain Police" paid homage to the original recordings. Painstaking detail went into the sound design of the distortion, reverb, etc. in order to deliver the well-loved timbres that are burned into the minds of hardcore fans.
Each band member nailed their vocals in the arrangement for "Dirty Love," delivering every foreground and background sound as well as Zappa's shrewd remarks between verses. Their performance of "Echidna's Arf" exhibited excellent part doubling and band cohesion. The trombone and guitar played extended phrases in unison, answered by the keyboard and bass. This sounds like an easy feat, but the potential for miscues or a foggy delivery increases exponentially with the introduction of each instrument to the musical texture, but Zappa Plays Zappa executed the task with ease.
With "Penguin In Bondage," ZPZ gave us another stellar example of band cohesion and part doubling that featured seamless ensemble phrasing between verses. The rhythm section pulled back and vamped for solos, and soloists were occasionally joined or answered by other instruments, creating dynamic exchanges and exciting improvisational passages.
"Baby Snakes" was one of the night's highlights, with ZPZ skillfully juggling genres during a song that showcases Frank Zappa's poly-stylistic tendencies. The well-known "Montana" was delivered with great precision and attitude, including the rapid helium-laced vocals, garnished with classic Zappa text painting, like the sound of horse hooves during the phrase "ride along the borderline."
The band deftly transitioned into an instrumental version of "Let's Make the Water Turn Black." This crafty arrangement treated the melody in the way of a medieval hocket, where the melody is divided rhythmically between different instruments. The guitar would start the beginning of a vocal part and the brass would finish the line. The brass would begin their portion of the melody in unison, with one instrument diverging from it, creating an interesting harmonization of the melody.
Though not on the set list, "Take Your Clothes of When You Dance" made an appearance in a great stylistic rendering of the Mothers classic. Naturally upbeat in texture and contrastingly poignant in subject, ZPZ's reggae version of the song was a great success.
The biggest surprise of the concert was "That Evil Prince" from Thing Fish. A highly complex arrangement, it balanced lush and lyrical with tragic and heavy, as if scored for a large ensemble and written with broad orchestral strokes.
"Who Are the Brain Police" was another highlight of the concert. The arrangement was pretty close to the original, but with some timbral additives, such as the huge synthesizer glissandi and an awesome guitar fuzz tone.
"Outside Now" and "Packard Goose" from Joe's Garage were performed back-to-back, complete with Mary's "Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom..."
The encore included a rousing "What's New in Baltimore" and "Strictly Genteel," a tour-de-force of a huge arrangement that served as a triumphant closer.
Dweezil Zappa often comes to Baltimore, but Zappa Plays Zappa is also a band worth traveling to see. Bands that offer such dedication to artistic integrity and possess such high levels of musicianship are few and far between. With such a broad sampling of Zappa's music, a ZPZ concert is a true tribute to the composer's prodigious body of work.
01 Zomby Woof
02 Hungry Freaks, Daddy!
03 Teenage Prostitute
04 Dirty Love
05 Echidna's Arf
06 Penguin In Bondage
07 Pygmy Twylyte
08 I'm So Cute
09 Baby Snakes
10 Tryin' To Grow A Chin
11 Here Lies Love
13 Let's Make the Water Turn Black
14 Harder Than Your Husband
15 Gas Station
16 Ride My Face to Chicago
18 That Evil Prince
19 Debra Kadabra
20 Who Are the Brain Police
21 Outside Now
22 Packard Goose
23 What's New In Baltimore?
24 Cosmik Debris
25 Strictly Genteel