Frank Zappa. The Palladium, New York

By Ira Meyer

Record Mirror, December 6, 1980

FRANK ZAPPA resumed his annual Halloween antics after a one year hiatus - taking to the Palladium stage with a six piece band that sounded brassier than Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey's big bands put together.

Yes, one of the keyboardists did lift a trumpet to his lips for a few brief moments. But most of the "blowing'' was by of synthesisers. Add two black guitarist / singers with a lot of soul and sure enough Mr Z had yet another whole new attack.

Mr Z himself was pretty straightforward on this night. Black pants and yellow shirt, he sang / intoned his lyrics with just the right note of irony, picked up a guitar for a well-heeled solo here and there, and conducted his mini-orchestra with, well, aplomb.

The arrangements were much tighter than usual and there was less abstract rambling than is generally the case with Mr Z's outfits. And the brevity suited him well. Okay, it wasn't all that coherent. There was this rather absurd song (the lyrics read from a notebook) about kitchen utensils. Need I say more?

But this show worked better than most of Zappa's over, say, the last five years. Just off the wall enough to be quirkily unique he didn't go oft the deep end which is what Zappa at his best has always been about.

More than Kiss or Cheap Trick, where the cartoon characterisations are created via sordid and sundry accoutrements, Zappa is himself a living, breathing and immensely musical cartoon character. And the level of musical development leaves you believing that the form doesn't matter much at all. Whatever he'd decide to try, Frank Zappa would make it his.