Frank Zappa. Public Hall. October 9

By Bill Camarata

Scene, 11 October 1977

Public Hall
October 9

The musical setting at Public Hall last Saturday evening was unusual – for anyone, that is, except Frank Zappa. The bizarre show put on by Zappa and his crew was varied, choreographed, humorous and, most of all, entertaining. Backed by an entirely different band (save for bassist Patrick O’Hearn and drummer extraodinaire Terry Bozzio) than the one he used last time he was here, Zappa did a show that lasted about two hours, which is quite long in this day and age. Zappa and his boys opened with an old favorite, “Peaches en Regalia,” and followed with 120 minutes of continuous music, never stopping for a between-song break. Zappa arranged all of his music so that the guitars had time to tune, the keyboard players (both of them) had time to breathe and set their levels, and the percussionist had time to clear his head and play his parts right.

As has come to be expected from a Zappa show, the members of the band all had their chance to ham it up. Percussionoid Ed Mann held up a “No Parking” sign for one of the lyric lines in “The Torture Never Stops;” second guitarist Adrian Belew was a constant comic with his Elton-ized glasses, hat, and “Lt. Punk” uniform; and keyboardist TommyMars danced like a total nut behind and in front of his instrument, even whipping a light man off-stage before the encore. Meanwhile, Terry Bozzio was at work with his masks, crazy lyrics, and synthesized drums, Patrick O’Hearn satirized Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” during his main solo, and of course there was Zappa himself.

The undisputed leader of this mania, Zappa also has a healthy musical profile. He soloed often on guitar throughout the first half of the set, later on giving more time to lengthy new instrumentals that “you should pay a lot of attention to, because if you watch them carefully, this might be one of those magic evenings that they play it right!” This second part of the show included a lot of material that was unfamiliar to the crowd, mostly because it has yet to appear on an album. Such inclusion of new material is common to the prolific Zappa’s concerts and clearly sets him apart from most of his competition.

For his encore, Zappa did the infamous “Dinah-Moe Humm” and “Camarillo Brillo” (both from the OVER-NITE SENSATION album) and “Black Napkins” (from ZOOT ALLURES). Zappa did the latter, he said, mainly because a “night club in Akron uses this song as background music for their commerical. I heard it on the radio today.”

I left the show very satisfied, and a lot less disappointed than after his last Cleveland show, which didn’t come off because of (1) his smaller band at that time, and (2) the fact that the general admission audience crowded the front seats like sardines.

The only audience problem this time was one quite common to concerts of late – fireworks. Zappa, however, helped keep this annoyance to a minimum via an oration at the beginning of the set. “If you catch the person next to lighting one of these,” he said, “would you please punch his (expletive deleted) face in? Otherwise, you’ll get your leg blown off.”