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Frank Zappa & Elsewhere
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Great vocal rendition of “Willie the Pimp” by Mike Portnoy (you can really hear the gravelly, Beefheart-ish quality to his vocals). Regarding “Bobby Brown (Goes Down)” though, is it just me, or does Dweezil seem somewhat embarrassed by that song? Come to think of it, when I saw Zappa Plays Zappa they avoided Frank’s more lewd and sexually sensational songs in lieu of note for note instrumentals. I hope this is a change to the ZPZ overall setlist to include these long overlooked Zappa songs, myself.
Personally, Urbangraffito, I think the embarrassment Dweezil was exhibiting was due to Portnoy’s poor and tremulous nasal delivery of Bobby Brown, as opposed to him being abashed at the risque contents of the lyrics — but that’s open to interpretation. When I saw them back in June, they sang several songs of a sexually-oriented nature, even including an impromptu amateur ballet with a blow-up doll by Ben during The Black Page #2, with not a trace of diffidence or shame infecting their faces. As for Willie The Pimp, Portnoy sounds sloppy in comparison with the precision of Joe Travers. We can only be glad that they didn’t bring out James Labrie to sing instead. The story at the start was a nice touch, though.
Oh, and I believe it was Ben singing on Willie — not Mike.
I’m a Dream Theater / Mike Portnoy follower since many years now, Mike has always mentioned FZ as one of his major influences… He wanted Zappa plays Zappa to partecipate to his prog-festival… and he often shows a wonderful zappa shirts… I think at this concert he also told a story about the FZ concert he saw at the Beacon by Zappa in 1988… I would like to see them cover Echidna’s arf / Don’t you ever wash that thing, it would be surely amazing 🙂
I also like his use of the charlies, he reminds me a lot young Terry… and the sound is three time bigger than Joe’s !
[quote post=”2411″]though, is it just me, or does Dweezil seem somewhat embarrassed by that song? [/quote]
I think Dweezil might be a little emotional by playing this song. He stated once that he couldn’t even listen to some songs of Zappa because of the emotions. And Bobby Brown might just be such song.
I could only make it through two minutes of this video. Portnoy is a great drummer, but is so full of himself. Painful.
Yes, it’s Ben Thomas singing in Willie The Pimp.
[quote comment=”7010″]Personally, Urbangraffito, I think the embarrassment Dweezil was exhibiting was due to Portnoy’s poor and tremulous nasal delivery of Bobby Brown, as opposed to him being abashed at the risque contents of the lyrics — but that’s open to interpretation. When I saw them back in June, they sang several songs of a sexually-oriented nature, even including an impromptu amateur ballet with a blow-up doll by Ben during The Black Page #2, with not a trace of diffidence or shame infecting their faces. As for Willie The Pimp, Portnoy sounds sloppy in comparison with the precision of Joe Travers. We can only be glad that they didn’t bring out James Labrie to sing instead. The story at the start was a nice touch, though.
Oh, and I believe it was Ben singing on Willie — not Mike.[/quote]
Exactly which songs songs of a “sexually-oriented nature” did they sing, might I ask (personally, I’m interested in how ZPZ might have altered their setlist over time). Re: Portnoy’s version of BB, perhaps I’m blinded by his sheer enthusiasm (or the present poor buffering of YT videos on my computer).
They performed the 200 Motels version of Magic Fingers, truly lewd only due to the kinky monologue that culminates it; Montana, King Kong, Inca Roads, Bamboozled by Love, Village of the Sun/Enchidna’s Arf of You/Don’t You ever Wash that Thing? — Willie the Pimp, Dirty Love, Penguin in Bondage, The Purple Lagoon, Cosmik Debris; and many others which I could remember only if I could be bothered to conjure them up, which I can’t — a set list which, besides Cosmik Debris, is in no way the same as that of the first gig I saw of theirs in 2007.
Ben Thomas is an invaluable addition to the band. He provides them with the comedic ad hoc fun and ballsy bravado they so desperately lacked the first time round. An example of this would be the joke he cracked upon receiving a blow-up doll from an audience member:
“Hey, does this have hepatitis C? You see, I’ve already got A and B, and I wanna make sure I get a complete set.”
Hope that satisfies your curiosity, Urbangraffito.
Thanks, Reuben. I’m sure Ben Thomas is an “invaluable addition to the band.” Providing ZPZ with “the comedic ad hoc fun and ballsy bravado” they so desperately need to, in my opinion, raise their show from a “note for note recitation” to a living and breathing resurgence of what was so missing from the early performances: Zappa’s comedic eyebrows, without taking anything away from the music itself. Perhaps because I have a soft spot for the absurd, sometime Dadaist humor of the original Mothers, and the over-the-top comedy of the Vaudeville band, I am less than critical of Mike Portnoy’s efforts. Like FZ’s bands in action, there was a gestalt at work, a kind of unrehearsed madness, which when all brought together in a show was magical. This is what I hope for ZPZ (and given these recent vids, they appear well on their way).
Portnoy didn’t show up during ZPZ at the show I saw, unfortunately. He has tremendous chops, but I was a little underwhelmed by his showing in “Willie” here–he doesn’t seem to have the sort of communication with the other musicians that Frank wanted in a drummer. Part of that could be the difference in roles between rock and jazz drummers, and the best of Frank’s drummers seemed to have at least some jazz background. Portnoy went to Berklee, but he rarely plays in a purely improvisational setting that would help his listening skills.
As for his singing on “Bobby Brown”, I thought it was neat that he did that. He puts lots of “eyebrows” on it, which is probably the most you can expect from that song. He only sings backups in DT and clearly doesn’t have the greatest voice, but that’s beside the point here. Frankly, the current band doesn’t have anyone besides Scheila who add the eyebrows to it. Ben Thomas is a really good singer, but he doesn’t have much stage presence and doesn’t seem to want to truly inhabit the songs the way NMB or Frank himself did.
On a more positive note, the lack of a full-time keyboardist seems to be forcing Dweezil to make the material more his own now. The current band has a much harder, edgier sound and features Dweezil moving quite a few of the keyboard lines over to guitar. He’s also starting to inject more of his own guitar style into his playing in ZPZ. Hopefully, he’s realizing that he doesn’t have to slavishly imitate mid-’70s arrangements for the music not to suck.
This metallic version of Willie The Pimp clearly illustrates how Dweezil’s formative guitar influences were Eddie Van Halen and other “hair band” type guitarists, rather than the more varied and “soulful” primitive influences of his daddy. This is a lumbering, bashing version with all of the elements of FZ’s original version (R&B, early rock n’ roll, soul/funk) completely removed and obliterated. Shows how really different the influences were for father and son. Too me this performance of Willie The Pimp sounds like complete crap with a drummer who has no feel at all, and no groove, for anything that might possess a swinging-type rhythm to it. (Nice vocals by Ben Thomas though!)
I love ZpZ! For someone who got into Frank’s music some 10 years after his passing, it is great to be able to see his music performed with such precision. When I read the comments on this site, I always wonder if I saw the same video as the posters… the highlight for me was Schelia shaking it at around 4:48…
Funnily enough, yesterday a work colleague asked me on which album ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow’ is, as he knew I was a big Zappa fan (‘Apostrophe’ for anyone who doesn’t know). He then told me that he loved ZPZ and had just watched their DVD, and was very happy that some of the alumni were on there (Napi, Terry ‘Ted’ and Vai). I explained that Dweezil has now gotten rid of the ‘guests’ and he was very disappointed to hear that.
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