Review: Zappa Plays Zappa, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, Dec. 31, 2008

Kevin shares his thoughts on the show at Crush All Boxes, including a nice piece of art by Ward Shelley (don’t miss the hi res picture!) 

At one point, Les Claypool came out in a longcoat and chimp mask and played what looked like a segment of a bed frame with a string attached to it. He beat upon this device with a drumstick while modulating the tension on the string and sort of dancing around as the band provided a soundtrack. It was during KK that Dweez conducted the band a la Frank.

For me, the standout solo was that of guitarist Jamie Kime. As at the previous ZPZ show I attended, he offered some truly original and intense sounds on his guitar. It was deeply impressive – this guy is a major talent.

The more interesting parts are in the text itself – go on reading!

32 Responses to “Review: Zappa Plays Zappa, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, Dec. 31, 2008”

  1. Clenn says:

    “He beat upon this device with a drumstick while modulating the tension on the string and sort of dancing around as the band provided a soundtrack.”

    The Whamola? Les named a track after this instrument on the Purple Onion album.

  2. Kevin Hoover says:

    Yes, exactly that’s what it was. Thanks.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whamola

  3. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    Excellent review Kevin — had it bookmarked for publication here but Balint beat me to it! 🙂

  4. P-Rip says:

    Jamie Kime’s playing has always been a highlight in both ZPZ tours that I have attended. He gets very little solo time, of course, but I find his playing more intersting than DZ or Vai.

  5. Kevin Hoover says:

    At first I regretted that Mike Keneally wasn’t second guitarist in ZPZ. But after seeing the direction it has taken, I doubt that Mike would be content to slavishly replicate old Frank interpretations or songs. Plus, him being independent means that he can bring the Mikeness.

    As I watched Jamie Kime, I had the definite sense that this is an artist with his own ideas, possibly of Keneallian stature, who we will definitely hear more of in the future.

  6. Matt says:

    I see that Trendmonger left one of his pretentious, condescending comments on the review page. What an asshat.

    ZPZ will never be equal to FZ, no matter how many decades they play. A copy is never equal to the original. End of story.

    Nice review, Kevin. I saw ZPZ last year, and I agree with you–they need to deviate, not replicate.

  7. Trendmonger says:

    Matt you interpret the English grammar incorrectly.
    Where I stated in reply to Kevin’s article

    “Your journalism and overall appreciation seem lost in carnival titillation as displayed in the 1932 film Freaks written by Rick Gregory. Give ZPZ 3 decades as FZ had toured and I expect ZPZ will for 3 decades display the blood and soul FZ put into his life work.”

    The fact is ZPZ has and always will always perform FZs works with the same blood and soul put into his life work. As time goes on,more and more concert goers are seeing the many ever expanding connections to the composers canon, while at the same time each show always minimally has a DZ conductor section.

    Only three tours and the achievements of performing those compositions of varied arrangements of many touring bands and many studio recordings is far beyond the general progression most expected could ever happen. The whole Jamband attitude and approach to FZs work is what I find condescending. Jamming becomes a crutch for lack of due diligence. There is a time for it but overindulgence and just playing it in the ball park is weak, pretentious and condescending .

    ZPZ will continue to evolve digging deep into the composer massive body of work. 3 tours into FZs touring career the musicians under his baton severely lacked the skill sets and never achieved the musical prowess of much of what ZPZ does.

  8. Kevin Hoover says:

    A quote from Trendmonger:

    ZPZ will continue to evolve digging deep into the composer massive body of work. 3 tours into FZs touring career the musicians under his baton severely lacked the skill sets and never achieved the musical prowess of much of what ZPZ does.

    There are flaws with this argument. Frank had no money during those early tours, and had to work with bar-band blues musicians to make his music real. He immediately upgraded his musicians as his popularity and income increased.

    Dweezil can’t plead poverty. He can get any level of muso genius he needs. Actually, the people has in his employ now are surely capable of being more dangerous. But he has to make them take risks. It all comes from the top.

    As I sort of said in the review, Dweezil is limited by the needlessly reverential approach he has taken. He’s placing selected iterations of Frank’s songs on a pedestal, and inevitably deadening them to some degree in the process. Frank was never about standing still or repeating. In fact he hated that.

    As Frank’s genetic artifact, Dweezil has moral license to liberally reinterpret Frank songs. And he is capable of this. All of Dweezil’s solo albums are loaded with his own perfectly viable and original attitude. I wonder – is it a matter of confidence?

    Someday he will find a way to fuse his own very strong and original ideas with Frank’s music, and then we’ll see something remarkable. Something that goes far beyond excellent nostalgic exercises.

    Trendmonger, you speak with some authority on this subject. Do you have inside knowledge?

  9. Tredmonger says:

    Kevin,

    Once again I think you are just too rooted in some Jamband regalia
    but to give credence to one part and not give credence to a canon is like applying alcohol to the needle before the death injection. I mean what’s up with that. Don’t want the bastard to get an infection on his way to wherever he’s going now do we. And what if that convicted guy on the gurney was actually innocent. I don’t know maybe this is just a nod to George Carlin but George makes you think. Even though DZ is a focused and reserved personality his approach shoudl make you think beyond what you display in your review. But o get back to our little dialog

    Where you say

    “There are flaws with this argument. Frank had no money during those early tours….”

    This statement and where it was leading is like a guy who buys some future convicted criminal death pay per view special on DBO , yes you guessed right Death Box Office.

    You see only what you perceive through Zappa shows you have attended and records you own. Your literary license is clutched by Jamband regalia. It’s like you show up to see the execution for the excitement or some gun sling hanging of the old west where everyone shows.

    While some of what you mention has merrit in explaining what an FZ concert was about what you obviosly lack is comprehension adn appreciation of DZs outward commitment to performances of works by FZ the composer.

    Your lack of care when giving critical analysis of ZPZs ever expanding performances of a composers canon is just too rooted in some expected stage carnival environment.

    We can start here
    No only does ZPZ include lots of improv in each and every solo section , conducting sections and sprinkling of some hybrid arrangement techniques but they have the ability to as I have stated give due diligence to sections, time slices, of a composers canon. To only look at FZs financial limitations on what musicians he was performing with at any time is a minor premise of the overall syllogism. ZPZ could do an arrangement of anything from anytime of decades of works but even if they took it another step and did “Here Lies My Love” with lets say Scheila doing Lowell Georges vocal part its not as if Mr Undertaker comes along as says this Museum is too cold we need to breathe life into this place.

    My advise to you is to just take a step back and continue to look at the progression. It will always have the blood and guts and be far more than some reverential approach.

    The manifest of these live shows should not be Jamband. These tours do follow composer guidelines of composition and arrangement while and each show has exploratory solo and hybrid arrangement techniques. Once again solo’s, conducting sections and sprinkling of some hybrid arrangement techniques are all part of the program.

    As the tours continue more and more of the canon will be excavated.
    A museum may seem cold but these animals come to life. ZPZ is a Night at The Museum and each tours offering is uncovering the largest Dinosaurs known to man and bringing them to life and that is especially on key for those that want to relive that as close as possible to what they once may have seen or missed the boat on for whatever reason.

    I don’t even think that Leob and Leopold were around for each and every arrangement. I don’t know maybe if you ask DZ and continue to encourage him maybe at some point he will spit up some Pepsi all over you, for demonstration purposes you can also have him call you Mark, but one you really are missing something without looking at the bigger picture of the major elements of the progression of these performances of FZs works.

  10. Trendmonger says:

    And if anyone should wonder why I picked Here Lies My Love(Martin/Dobard) , originally released by Mr. Undertaker

    Oone month from today marks the 4tieth anniversary of the MOI performance of that song at Columbia University.

  11. Trendmonger says:

    Kevin,

    I furthelook deeper into your minor premise of the overall syllogism.

    Where you say,

    “Dweezil can’t plead poverty. He can get any level of muso genius he needs. Actually, the people has in his employ now are surely capable of being more dangerous. But he has to make them take risks. It all comes from the top.”

    There is no need to plead poverty but each member needs to give due diligence to learning compositions and specific arrangements selections from a life’s work. This is no different than when FZ had a touring band. There are arrangements for each band and the ZPZ band is every Zappa band all rolled in consummate professionalism.

    The time comes for ZPZ Band Member adventure cues but your mention of muso genius being attached to any ZPZ core member to suggest DZ limitations of pushing the envelope on any musicians abilities is no different than any musician under FZs baton.

    Don’t think for a minute FZ let Tommy Mars run off on self expressive jam band museo tangent fro Frank extremely frowned on such behavior adn woudl eyebrow whip any musician that did no follow specific protocols on performance.

    Frank placed limitation on how much he let any band member deviate from the program. ZPZs musicians just as FZs are only allowed to solo when given the cue and those cues came far less in any given FZ show as compared to the demands of following exact compositional guidelines.

  12. Bálint says: