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Review: Zappa Plays Zappa @ The Bridgewater Hall 22/11/11

By Mihaela Ivantcheva

Progressive, experimental, rock, pop, jazz, orchestral, avant-garde, rhythm & blues – you name it! Can you imagine all this mixed up? You should if you are a Zappa fan.

Zappa is back on the stage playing Zappa. In a unique concert, the innovative sound of Frank Zappa was reborn by his eldest son Dweezil Zappa and his one-of-a-kind band, Zappa Plays Zappa.

Son revived the music of his father and immortalised his legacy for the Manchester fans at the Bridgewater Hall. The band performed as part of their UK tour that started in North Yorkshire on November 17 and ends in Brighton on December 1.

Composer, singer, songwriter, one of the best electric guitarist, record producer and film director, Frank Vincent Zappacan undoubtedly be labelled father of music invention and innovation. He is arguably one of the most individualistic musicians of the 20th century.


IN HIS FATHER’S SHADOW: Dweezil performs under a video of his father, Frank Zappa

On the stage of the Bridgewater Hall, old and new fans saw his legacy brought back to life and recreated by Dweezil performing Zappa’s classic album Apostrophe from 1974 in its unmitigated entirety.

Spellbinding guitar solos revived Zappa’s era for the new generation – in a slightly different sound.

Dweezil Zappa showed his guitar virtuosity that was so mind-blowing it almost challenged my all-time guitar favourite, Metallica’s One.

Scheila Gonzalez, the band’s only female presence, brought in the sounds of saxophone, flute and woodwinds.

The lead vocal Ben Thomas not only surprised with his voice but also with his show performance. At the end, he managed to turn Bridgewater Hall into a dance floor with fans grooving around under the sounds of Po-Jama People and What is the Ugliest Part of Your Body.


THE LOGICAL CONTINUATION: Dweezil does his father’s songs justice

A unique band performing a unique album, they rocked, jazzed, and grooved. Sometimes the guitar ruled.

The next moment the deep voice of the saxophone produced that easy, jazzy feel.

Before you realized it, the softness of the keyboards and woodwinds invited dramatic musical elements going different directions and creating a soulful and sensual atmosphere.

Not comparable with anything common you might have heard, Zappa’s rhythms will challenge you, the variety of instruments and the nuances of sounds will surprise you. You will find it difficult to categorise his music in any conventional music format.

Pigeonholing his work with mainstream music would mean underestimating his imagination and originality. The only clearly identifiable characteristic of Zappa’s music is individualism that is at the core of his work.

Clearly, the highlight of the night was the unreleased video footage of Frank Zappa performing in his early days. On a huge display in the middle of the stage, Manchester fans could relive the virtuosity of the American musician.

Performing in synchrony with his father, Dweezil was the logical continuation of Frank Zappa – Zappa’s old legacy with a new face for a new generation.

 

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