Zappa displays unique performance

By Lynn Zipfel

Vidette, May 8, 1975

Frank Zappa not only is one of the best guitarists in America, he is also one of the most bizarre lyricists in the music industry. In Tuesday night's concert in the Union-Auditorium, he demonstrated how unpredictable he could be by presenting a surprisingly laid-back performance.[1]

After all I had hear about Zappa, I was ready to be entertained and possibly shocked at some of his bizarreness, but his concert did not generate as much excitement as I thought it would. The crowd was surprisingly sedate, maybe because they were too burnt out by Rites of Spring or disappointed by their hero.

Zappa is an intense musician, and combined with his satirical lyrics, he could be called a musical Lenny Bruce. Beginning the concert with "Montana," he demonstrated his talent for bizarre lyrics by singing of a "dental floss tycoon." The number was an excellent display of Zappa and started the show on a high note, only to drift into numerous heavy and long jams through the rest of the concert.

In his lyrics, Zappa attacks everything from religion to the country itself (about America he said, "what a dumb name for a country anyway"). He stabs cynical cuts and gets his message across accompanied by his typical atypical music. His music is offbeat, never predictable and full of dissonant chords. He is a very unique personality, and his music displays his uniqueness.

The musicians in his band, no longer called "The Mothers of Invention," are extremely adept, and Zappa let them take over many times while he just sat back and directed them. George Duke on keyboards did an excellent interpretation of a human synthesizer, and a unidentified new singer displayed boundless energy, if not trying to be a show stealer at times.

Zappa is the show himself. Characterized by his Brillo pad hair, his dark mustache and growth of hair below his lip, he commands attention the minute he walks on stage.

No doubt he is a musical genius and can stand on this alone, but his lyrics give him the attention. The absurdities he writes, such as "Billy the Mountain" and "Dynamo Hum," which are standard Zappa favorites, were absent from the concert.

Gone are his gross-out contests, his leading the audience in a group orgasm and his general weird theatrics. He just came out and played his music, never stopping to let the audience applaud until it was over.

If most of the audience had seen Zappa before, then the concert Tuesday night was good because it was a different Zappa concert. But I was ready to let Zappa show me why he is the big cult hero by not only entertaining with his music, but by singing more of his absurd songs and attacking society with his flair.

He did not give the concert his full potential. It was extremely well done, and the lighting was the best I'd ever seen at a concert, but I wonder, did the audience rise to its feet for a standing ovation for the performance or the legendary man, Zappa himself?

Zappa's performance was good, not great, and cannot rank among the best he's given, I'm sure. For being such a unique artist, I am disappointed he changed his format for my first taste of Zappa on stage.

1. Frank Zappa Gig List: The concert was on May 6, 1975, as a part of "The Bongo Fury" tour. Zappa's band: FZ, Denny Walley, Captain Beefheart, Tom Fowler, Terry Bozzio, Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke, Bruce Fowler. No recording of this concert is known.