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Zappa Plays Zappa @ the Dallas House of Blues. I Couldn't Have Enjoyed it More Had I Been Familiar With the Set List. Dweezil was the Veritable Truth!


The mustache that made Baltimore famous!


For those who don't know, Zappa Plays Zappa is an American rock tribute band, led by Dweezil Zappa, the eldest son of Frank Zappa, whose music they are attempting to introduce to a new generation of fans. Frank Zappa released close to 70 albums in his lifetime & has enough unreleased material to release @ least 1 album a year for the next 70 years. So, in 2002, Dweezil figured that since his father had so much music that he believed no one would ever be able to hear, it would be a waste of the world's ears to deprive them of it. So, he decided to go through the vaults & resurrect as much of his father's catalog as he could & present it live across the globe. He spent 2 years listening to every single note FZ ever recorded & also re learning how to play guitar so that he would be able to give a true representation as well as taking a few liberties & adding some signature touches of his own. I've seen one show & I would have to say that he's not only succeeded, he's succeeded....completely. With all this in mind, you need to know that of the 20 or so tunes in the setlist, I'd heard roughly 8 of them prior to that concert.

Friday evening, November 20th. It was cold & rainy as I sat in traffic in Colleyville, TX, on the way to pick up my buddy for the ZPZ show in Dallas & I was getting just a little grouchy. I'd never been to the House of Blues & wasn't really comfortable with the bastardized Mapquest directions that tried to take me 5 miles out of my way to get to a highway that's 2 miles from my house. I finally picked up my friend Rich @ 7:15pm & proceeded to sit in traffic for another 20 minutes trying to get to a main highway that would lead us to Dallas. The rain & traffic were both horrible & I had to re route us through Arlington (Home of the Dallas Cowboys?) to get to I-30 & head east to downtown Dallas. We finally hit some clear space & I was able to drive like a maniac & managed to get to the House of Blues @ about 8:25pm, about 5 minutes before the show was scheduled to start.We then met my other buddy Rob & picked up our tickets from the will call window & found our awesome lower balcony seats after getting our 1st round of beers.8:50 rolled around before Dweezil & the band finally hit the stage just as I was starting to wonder what the hold up was. Dweezil advised the crowd that all of his equipment had completely stopped working during the soundcheck, thus the delay.(Unfortunately, this also shortened the show by a good 20 minutes but apparently the House of Blues has a strict 11:00pm end of show time.) They then proceeded to rip into Broken Hearts are for Assholes from 1979s Sheik Yerbouti album & just killed it. After the 1st track, I was completely unfamiliar with close to the next hour of music until they played Don't Eat the Yellow Snow from Apostrophe but they only played the 1st movement, I had really hoped to hear the entire Nanook suite since that's 1 track I knew backwards & forwards & have been wanting to see performed live for about 28 years, so that was a little disappointing but whaddaya' gonna' do? It was sort of like Judas Priest, who I saw a couple months earlier wanting to hear 1 particular song that they never played.

However, unlike the Priest, ZPZ's set, that, while largely unfamiliar to me, did not contain 1 stale or boring moment. Crew Slut from Joe's Garage was one of many raunchy highlights in a set of one impossibly challenging tune after another. The degree of difficulty on most of the tracks was extremely high & Dweezi's band of virtuosi musicians handled it with aplomb. They blazed effortlessly though song after song, playing such classics as Cosmik Debris, Zombie Woof & My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama & the crowd just ate it up. But, when the audience started giving standing ovations from about the 3rd song on, this bothered me because a) that gave the band license to not play as long & b) over half of the set list comprised of unreleased material, which was great stuff, but to me, hadn't earned standing ovations yet. They were great fun to hear for the 1st time but weren't exactly all instant classics. The unreleased material had classic potential for the future but whether they'll stand the test of time can't really be ascertained from only 1 listen. A good 70% of the set concentrated on some of the more bluesy tracks in FZ's repertoire all punctuated by killer guitar work by Dweezil, who, this particular show, had no guest guitarist. This didn't seem to bother Dweezil however, & while the rest of the ZPZ band was incredible, he seemed to be the most locked in on every tight little detail of the amazing set. & of all the rest of the band, I was particularly impressed with the versatility of backing vocalist & multi instrumentalist, Scheila Gonzalez, who's played with Dweezil on every tour since 2004. There didn't seem to be a musical task asked of her where she wasn't able to rise to the challenge, even handling lead vocals on the very obscure You Didn't Try to Call Me from the 1966 Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention debut album, Freak Out & made it all her own. What made her performance even more impressive was that in past tours she'd had other horn & keyboard players on stage with her but on this tour she is handling all of those duties on top of the backing vocals virtually on her own, no mean feat given the demanding set list ZPZ powered through. Some other tracks included the title track from Apostrophe, San Bernadino & Peaches En Regalia, all 3 being FZ fan & concert staples. Probably my favorite of tracks I was unfamiliar with was an old FZ concert chestnut called very appropriately, Redunzl from early 1976's Studio Tan, which ZPZ played with their stripped down band & still played a scorching version of it. An even more blistering performance was the 1966 classic Trouble Every Day from Freak Out! On earlier tours Steve Vai joined Dweezil in on a monster guitar duel, but Dweezil was on his own on this night, though not totally alone, he had help from guitarist Jami Kime who mostly handled rhythm duties while Dweezil shredded. Though, Kime did throw in some nice leads here & there & held his own with Dweezil. It's pretty clear that Dweezil, like his father, is extremely adept @ matching himself with complementary players. While Dweezil may not be as prolific compositionally as Frank, (who is?) his musical skill & ability to bring out the best in already very highly skilled musicians is right up there with dad.

Other impressive performers were drummer & Zappa vaultmeister supreme, Joe Travers & vocalist Ben Thomas. Mr. Thomas did a great job in keeping true to FZ's unique vocal style & probably the only thing that really disappointed me in the band's performance was the fact that Dweezil chose Joe Travers to sing Cosmik Debris instead of Ben Thomas, which didn't make sense since his voice is more well suited to the song than that of Travers'. However, that by no means even came close to ruining the show for me. In fact, that song ended the show & I missed a few minutes of it using the restroom & heard the bulk of it while in line. I did get back & catch the entire encore. I kept looking over @ my friends to see their reactions throughout the course of the show only to find they were enjoying it as much as I was, though, we were all pretty much unfamiliar with the setlist. That, in itself, is the benchmark of how good the band & the composer they are emulating really are. I have not always been a die hard, dyed in the wool Zappa fan though have owned several albums & have enjoyed his stuff over the years but with ZPZ, it gives the music a completely fresh perspective that I can see even younger audiences getting into, which is cool. The encore consisted of Apostrophe & the show closed with Muffin Man from Bongo Fury, which was co-written by Captain Beefheart & released in 1975. The closer featured probably the most insane Dweezilfied interpretation of an FZ solo & was a g thang of beauty to behold. Singer Ben Thomas also did a great job with the vocals & the rest of the band shined just as they did all night. Xylophonist Billy Hulting & bassist Pete Griffin also deserve major mention for their contributions. There, I mentioned every band member. All in all, an incredible show & afterwards, it was back to my place for some amazing home made tacos made by my wife & some Shiner Bock beers, which, is an unbeatable combination, as I've said on more than one occasion. After that, me & my buddy Rich watched most of the ZPZ DVD I bought @ the show & by the time I dropped him off back in Colleyville @ approximately 0345cst the next morning, I felt like a wee bit of a muffin man me self. But I wasn't. I was still me.

I realize that thanks to nostalgia, demand & the lack of really good, original bands out these days that the cover or tribute band industry is experiencing something of a renaissance. I've seen more than my share over the years & have actually been in a couple, so I have to believe that I'm a pretty good judge of bad vs good ones. I've also been to hundreds of live shows in my time & would like to think that the original is always better than a tribute, but I speak from experience when I say that it's not always the case. Take Pink Floyd for example, I have seen them live 3 times in giant stadiums, twice in 1987 & once in 1994 & while I enjoyed every show, I was not as blown away as I was when I was able to catch the Australian Pink Floyd Show tribute band @ the Nokia Theatre in Grand Prairie, TX in November 08. I was amazed @ how much better the music & overall attention to detail was compared to the original Pink Floyd, but I guess that's because when you're not the real Floyd,you have to try much harder in order to keep booking shows. On the other hand, I've seen Led Zeppelin in 1979 in Minneapolis, & they were just sick but when I saw the Zeppelin band The Music of Led Zeppelin in the summer of 09, it was extremely average, & it was a big budget show accompanied by the F.W. Symphony Orchestra. Even with all the hype & great reviews, the show was mediocre @ best, & Zeppelin songs aren't nearly as difficult to re create as Pink Floyd, @ least not lighting, effects or choreography wise. Of all the hundreds of shows I've seen in my lifetime, original or tribute band, I will now give you my top 3 of all time, but not necessarily in order. 3) Steely Dan (The original) @ the Nokia Theatre in 2006. (The 1st 2 times I saw them @ larger venues, I was semi disappointed.) 2) The Australian Pink Floyd show & 1) Zappa Plays Zappa @ the House of Blues last night. (I saw King Crimson @ the Will Rogers auditorium on my birthday in 95 & they were in the top 3 until I saw Zappa last night.) I guess the common thread would be they all took place in smaller venues so the lesson we can take away from this is, if you can see a highly skilled band in a more intimate setting, do it. Good night & good luck.


Show running time: approx. 2 hrs & 10 minutes. Here is as much of the setlist I was able to put together from different sources. It seems as though there were more but this was all I could find. So email toddhavemail@gmail.com if you know of any more &/or the actual order.

Peaches En Regalia, San Bernadino,
My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama, Crew Slut, Keep It Greasy, Purple Lagoon,
Apostrophe, REDUNZL, Zombie Woof, Bamboozled by love, Don't Eat The Yellow Snow, Road Ladies Cosmik Debris, Muffin Man, You Didn't Try to Call Me
, Jones Crusher

I'd read on a few message boards how the House of Blues is not the ideal place to hold a concert, particularly because of where they placed the floor seat folding chairs. Where I was sitting, however, was ideal in that you could easily make out the faces of all the musicians & even see Dweezils fingers. &, the sound was great as well so in those respects, I had no reason to complain & if I attend any more shows there, I'll always buy lower balcony seats. Believe dat.

The Benchmark of Face Based Ratings!

4 out of 5 EmoToddCons