|Review: Zappa Plays Zappa
Portland loves Frank Zappa.
And the rock icon, known since the 1960s to his legion of devoted fans for his political satire, acerbic wit, vitriolic tongue and insanely complex and often spellbinding compositional skills, can still draw a crowd.
Zappa died of cancer in 1993, a fact that didn't deter a square-block-long line of them who showed up at the Roseland Thursday night for a stellar night of his music, courtesy of his son Dweezil.
Backed by a muscular, high-caliber band of monstrously talented young players, Dweezil has undertaken a huge task, bringing the 40-year span of his father's peculiar brand of rock music to his old fans and new young fans with his Zappa Plays Zappa tour, which has circled the globe since May of this year.
Despite the humongous line, the pouring rain, and the fact many of us didn't make it inside the hall until about the third song (shame on you, Roseland and Double Tee), the younger Zappa paid a huge and humble tribute to his father's music.
"This is really a big thank you to all of you," he said humbly.
Though it's clearly Dweezil's show, the band is fronted by longtime Zappa singer and saxophonist Napolean Murphy Brock, whose manic antics and vocal power onstage are as riveting as ever.
Dweezil also brought along two other Zappa alums and showstoppers, guitar god Steve Vai and drummer Terry Bozzio, who parked himself inside one of the largest triple-bass-drum kits known to the concert stage.
Though the band could have played it safe with Frank's bigger hits and more popular tunes, to Dweezil's credit, they tackled some of the more obscure, least-played and most complicated songs. Though we got plenty of "Florentine Pogen" (a song the band ended up playing three times throughout the night, because the concert was being filmed with a seven-camera film crew), "Pygmy Twylyte," "Montana" and "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," Dweezil put the band through some rigorous paces with "Inca Roads," "The Black Page pt. 2," "Village of the Sun" and "Peaches en Regalia."
While it could have been a night of perfunctory performance based on rote memorization, the core seven-piece band delivered heartfelt and truly inspired play. Dweezil, who probably doesn't have to work a day again in his life, early on seemed a tad self-conscious. But by mid-show he was trading licks with Vai, evoking the nutty sounds and quirky modes of his father's frenetic guitar solos, and clearly enjoying the night.
It was a reverential night of music, for fans old and young. Frank, upon whose birthday this show was played, would've been proud.