Zappa exhibits finest talents in Chicago

By Ralph Baum

Vidette, December 6, 1976

Popular music, much like radio, newspaper and television is mass media. The concert stage acts as a platform for the performer to expound on anything ; from sex to religion, as well as individual musical expertise. These public displays are clearly signs of the times.

It is therefore no surprise that after 12 years of experimentation with various stage beings and social principles, Frank Zappa has emerged to be a master and a prefectionist to the essence of the impact of his public image and musical conveyance.

Zappa's pre-Thanksgiving concert at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre proved to be an experience in abstract social analysis as well as an example of guitar wizardry by one of America's finest.[1] He called it the "Chicago Thanksgiving Extravaganza," and that, it truly was.

The new group, not to be identified as the Mothers, consisted of only four accompanists.[2] There was no horn section and multiple keyboard players as seen on past Zappa tours; Also, each face in the band was a new one.

George Duke's keyboard berth was filled by former Roxy Music's Eddie Jobson who also added to the music with his electric violin. On drums was former Azteca's Terry Bozzio and playing guitar was Ray White. A peculiarly attired Pat O'Hearn played bass.

This small musical grouping helped Zappa take stronger command of the stage. Whereas in past concerts, he shared the spotlight resulting in various I areas of attraction; this time the entire show revolved around him.

"Stinkfoot" was the show opener and for extra added effect, Frank has a model of an aged foot which he held towards the audience for them to symbolically adorn. From there, he started into a philosophical evaluation of "God's three big mistakes: 1) poodles 2) wo and 3)man."

It seems, according to Zappa, that the poodle was a contentedly serene canine creature until the wo-man came along and turned it from a poodle to a "disco poodle", complete with tailored hair style, ribbons, bows and painted nails. Apparently the poodle had a certain degree of "snout appeal" which was particularly fanciful to the wo-man's "pink zonery". The whole erogeneously suggestive description led appropriately into "Dirty Love".

Zappa's latest album is entitled "Zoot Allures". "Zoot Allures'" various cuts have their basic Zappaesque appeal, and exhibit an idea that live renditions could be inspiring, humorous and entertaining.

"Working at a Gas Station" is a quick paced number which includes the line: "Show me your thumb, if you're really dumb." Although part of the audience reacted to this command with a degree of smirked reservation, others ecstatically projected their thumbs upward. "The Torture Never Stops" was actually morbid in its suggestion and the sinisterism was brought a bit closer to home when Zappa's hulking, bald-headed bodyguard walked onstage and glared at the audience.

The album, as well as the overall live performance, is more rock oriented than Zappa's music of the immediate past. However, it still contains various social implications that became digested and later put forth in concert to encompass extra meanings.

To exemplify, the Zappa roadies, dressed in goggles, tights and horns, became satanic mysterians whose mime converged around such items as an electric toaster, mixmaster, ice-crusher and electric blender. At one point Zappa got hold of the blender and held it aloft while the roadie accompanists bowed in homage.

The show concluded with an extended version of "Black Napkin" from the new album, which allowed Zappa to take his biggest guitar break of the evening.

For encores, "Stranded in the Jungle", which was reminiscent of late 50's early 60's rock n' roll was performed along with "Dinah-Moe-Humm". As Zappa puts it, "No concert would be complete without it." Interestingly enough, the first time Zappa performed "Dinah-Moe-Humm" in concert was none other than good ol' ISU at his first appearance here in July in 1974.

The concert showed Frank Zappa at his inevitable finest incarnation. Although to some he may seem commercialistic, his music still contains a valid message in its lyrics and a responsibility towards overall instrumental advancement.

To say he is overdoing it is an opinion, and to say that he isn't any good is a falsehood, but the future is never certain for Frank Zappa and his seemingly stark subject material. For that matter, the Future is never certain for the rest of the world around him.

1. FZShows: The concert was on November 25, 1976. Zappa's band: FZ, Ray White, Patrick O'Hearn, Terry Bozzio, Eddie Jobson. The circulating audience recording songlist: The Purple Lagoon, Stinkfoot, The Poodle Lecture, Dirty Love, Wind Up Working In A Gas Station, Tryin' To Grow A Chin, The Torture Never Stops, City Of Tiny Lights (incl The Roadies Kitchen Utensils Ballet), A Pound For A Brown, Titties 'n Beer, Black Napkins, The Purple Lagoon, Dinah-Moe Humm, The Purple Lagoon, Camarillo Brillo, Muffin Man, The Purple Lagoon.

2. Bianca Thornton, the original member of this touring band, left the band after November 11 concert.