Reviewer: Matthew Forrest
“It’s 51 years but was 50 when we started the tour” Dweezil Zappa informs the highly excited and vocal Lyric theatre this evening: It would appear that Zappa has a few naming issues to deal with at the moment which go far beyond the title of his latest tour. Zappa is locked in an ugly, murky but most of all sad legal fight with his siblings over the Zappa name, but make no bones about it Zappa is here to celebrate the life and work of his late father, Frank Zappa and judging by the crowd in Salford they are more than happy to go along for the ride.
With a career spanning over 50 years and 60 albums, taking in Frank Zappa’s solo work and that of his output with the Mothers of Invention, tonight’s show is a retrospective look at some of Dweezil Zappa’s favourites tunes, fan favourites and rarities that have never been played live before.
Backed by a six-piece band Zappa begins his set with Latex Solar Beef which transitioned neatly into ACDC’s Back in Black: this pattern continued throughout the night as the band bounced from song to song which was a fantastic display of musicianship and a treat for the diehard fans but slightly annoying for the casual fan such as myself who would sometimes get lost in the show. I suppose that is the point of the show: Dweezil, like his father is a bit of maverick and an exceptionally talented guitarist who will play what he wants and how he wants.
It’s not just Zappa who is talented; he has surrounded himself with a group of musicians all on top form including vocalist Cian Coey who has a tremendous voice and traverses between the heavier and more absurd of Zappa’s songs effortlessly. In addition there is the very talented Schelia Gonzalez on keyboard, flute, saxophone, pretty much any instrument she could lay her hands on. Throughout the 2 ½ hour set all the band get moments to shine with extended ‘jamming’ on various songs throughout the night. Frank Zappa has a reputation of only working with the best; well certainly Dweezil Zappa has continued this tradition.
The phrase ‘journey’ is used far too much these days: however, the gig tonight was more adventure than journey: at times exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure but never dull: a sort of musical trip down the Yellow Brick Road with no Dorothy or Toto to guide you. Highlights included It Can’t Happen Here, which included a nice number of local references, and the highly entertaining Would You Go All the Way? In addition there was a note-perfect cover of the James Bond Theme, as well as barnstorming cover of I am the Walrus by The Beatles.
Overall this was a great night of live music, despite the near over 30song setlist I’m sure some of the diehard fans will have been elated/disappointed to hear/not hear their favourite songs, but you can’t please everyone, and for those new coming to Zappa it was a fine example of what to expect in the future: yes at times it was challenging but one thing for certain is that everyone there witnessed some simply exceptional musicians who have honed their craft superbly. There is talk of a Frank Zappa hologram show which Dweezil dismissed with a cutting “I’d like to see a hologram do that” well, I and others will stick with you I think young man.
Reviewed on 9 October 2017 | Image: Contributed