Frank Zappa. Public Hall. November 19

By Bill Camarata

Scene, 25 November 1981

Public Hall
Nov. 19

It always seems to be just like one big party whenever Zappa and his band come to town, and this time was just like the others, only better.

His set was really varied this time. Zappa was really in fine form, especially when, upon his entrance to the stage, he was showered with gifts, among them a huge dildo with 'Bwana Dik' scrawled on the side, and an even larger quilt entirely made out of panties, undoubtedly inspired by TINSELTOWN REBELLION'S "Panty Rap." So, after a strong solo, the first of many that night, of "Treacherous Cretins" from SHUT UP 'N PLAY YER GUITAR, Frank and band went straight into "Montana," and then "Easy Meat" before playing a large section of tunes from sides three and four of the new YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS.

"The Black Page" served as an introduction to about a half-hour's worth of amazing instrumentals, most of which are new, unreleased work. (Nothing new for Zappa, he always does that.) Between tunes, he picked up the guitar and did some more solos, which were particularly innovative that night, and heavily dependent on feedback. During one instrumental, Zappa played no guitar nor directed with his little conductor's stick, just sat back while the rest of the band plugged away at this complex new work. At the same time, Zappa was nodding and tapping his fingers to the switching times, notes and staccato blasts.

Announcing with, "You can sing along with this one if you want to," Frank led right back into music with "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" and "Tryin' to Grow a Chin," which bassist Thunes sang with punkish atonality. Zappa finished off with two unusual numbers, and by that I mean unusual for him, if that's a description. "This isn't something we normally do, but I've gotten so many requests for this song I think we're gonna do it ..." Frank said, as he did "Dinah-Moe Humm," probably the only over-played Zappa song in existence. Then came the real surprise. For the first time since I saw him do "Stranded In The Jungle," back in '76, Zappa did someone else's song. Get this: a reggae version of the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post." It was good, but very, very different.

I don't know if it was the fact that he played a little bit longer, or if he did more insturmentals, if it was the vast improvement in guitar soloing, the tight band or the vibes of the crowd, but this seemed to be the best Zappa concert that I've been to in a long time.