Dweezil Zappa has embarked on his current 2016 tour, “The Cease and Desist Tour” playing his father’s, Frank Zappa’s music. Due to the drama between the Zappa children and the Zappa Family Trust, Dweezil has been told to stop using the “Zappa plays Zappa” for his shows, so he now calls it “Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the F@%k He Wants.” Dweezil is the oldest son of Frank Zappa, the famous rock and roll artist that was known for his collective improvisational, experimental and eclectic approach to music. It is hard to place a label on Frank’s music since it encompassed rock, jazz, blues and classical. He was also know for pushing the envelope on what the public would except in the 60s and 70s. Some of his works were banned from the radio due to the suggestive lyrics.
Dweezil has had legal problems before with his name. When he was born, the hospital refused to put Dweezil as his first name on the birth certificate. It wasn’t until he was 5 years old that he asked his parents and the courts to have his name officially changed to Dweezil. Dweezil in his own right is a superb musician having learned and played with some world class guitarist including Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen. He released his first single at age 12. Dweezil was lucky enough to learn from and play with his father, Frank, on a number of occasions.
Dweezil told us that the stuff on the radio was not a representation of Frank’s music. For these shows they were attempting to give the fans a better representation of Frank’s works. Prior to Teenage Wind, Dweezil told us about the issues he is having with The Zappa Foundation run by his 2 younger siblings. It has gotten so bad, that he might not even be able to use the name “Zappa” because the foundation trademarked the family name. It seems funny that someone might not be able to promote himself using his own name, but with lawyers and courts these days, who knows?
This year is the 50th anniversary of Frank’s debut album, Freak Out! released in 1966. Dweezil is currently touring with a Ryan Brown (Drums), Scheila Gonzalez (Vocals, Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards), Kurt Morgan (Bass, Vocals), Chris Norton (Keyboards, Vocals), David Luther (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax) and Cian Coey (Vocals). The band does a fabulous job of reproducing the original sound and feeling of Frank’s music. At times you can see that the band is pushing their abilities just to match Frank’s eclectic sounds. For the most part, Dweezil left the singing to the other band members. Cian, David, Chris and Scheila did a masterful job on recreating the Mothers of Invention sound. The audience really enjoyed the concert and gave the band a number of standing ovations.
The show started with 2 songs, Help I’m A Rock and It Can’t Happen Here from the Freak Out! album. After a few songs, Dweezil asked his guitar tech to come out and change out the battery on his guitar since it was not sounding right. Later he told us that a lot of people thought Frank’s music was horrific and that bringing a Zappa album home was a lot like bringing a tiger home and asking dad if you can keep it. The band played songs from Frank’s large collection of albums, including 200 Motels, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets and Joe’s Garage.
For The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing, all of the singers came to the center of the stage and sang. These lyrics are as relevant today as they were back in 1981, “Well, people, you ain’t even got no – Deal at all – ‘Cause what they do – In Washington – They just takes care – of NUMBER ONE – An’ NUMBER ONE ain’t YOU – You ain’t even NUMBER TWO”. The last song of the set, Watermelon In Easter Hay, an instrumental piece, that allowed Dweezil to show off his prowess on the guitar. They came back for an encore of Muffin Man which was one of the heaviest songs of the night.
I was never lucky enough to see Frank Zappa in concert, but I listened to a lot of his music. But listening to Dweezil and his band, it sounded a lot like Frank’s music that I remember. I personally don’t care what the Zappa Family Trust says, Dweezil is doing honor to his family and father by bringing Frank’s music to a new generation. If you get the chance you should really see the show.
Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Venue: Talking Stick Resort Showroom
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2016
Help I’m A Rock / Transylvania Boogie (Freak Out! / Chunga’s Revenge)
It Can’t Happen Here (Freak Out!)
You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here (Beat the Boots)
Harry You’re A Beast / Orange County Lumber Truck (Make a Jazz Noise Here)
Lemme Take You To The Beach (Studio Tan)
How Could I Be Such A Fool? (Cruising with Ruben & the Jets)
Who Are The Brain Police (Freak Out!)
What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning? (200 Motels)
Shove It Right In (200 Motels)
Flower Punk (We’re Only in It for the Money)
Inca Roads (One Size Fits All)
You Didn’t Try To Call Me (Cruising with Ruben & the Jets)
Black Napkins (Zoot Allures)
Teenage Wind (You Are What You Is)
Montana (Over-Nite Sensation)
Zomby Woof (Over-Nite Sensation)
Wet T-Shirt Nite (a.k.a. “Fembot in a Wet T-Shirt”) (Joe’s Garage)
Toad-O Line (a.k.a. “On the Bus”) (Joe’s Garage)
Keep It Greasey (Joe’s Garage)
The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing (You Are What You Is)
Doreen (You Are What You Is)
Watermelon In Easter Hay (Joe’s Garage)
Muffin Man (Bongo Fury)