Zappa performance a Shea's crowd-pleaser

By John Moherovicic

The Record, March 11, 1988

Frank Zappa has been called an iconoclast, a nihilistic social commentator and a musical genius. He effectively represented all these roles during his show at Shea's Buffalo Theater Wednesday.

Zappa and his 11-piece band executed two virtually flawless, career-spanning sets that left the diverse audience moved by the band's musical prowess and in hysterics at its hilarious stage antics.

The first set, which lasted slightly more than an hour, opened with an instrumental piece that showcased a trademark Zappa solo and some inordinately tight refrains from a five-piece horn section featuring the Fowler brothers (members of the early 1970s Mothers line up).

The show continued with "Who Need the Peace Corps" from the 1968 Mothers of Invention LP, "We're Only in it for the Money," followed by "Penguin in Bondage" from the live "Roxy and Elsewhere" LP.

"Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel" and "What's New In Baltimore," which debuted on Zappa's 1984 tour, followed by "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing," a stab at unethical evangelists, continued the set.

The crowd-pleasing "Bobby Brown" and a new song called "The Lie is so Big," which chronicled the exploits of Pat Robertson, rounded out the first set.

Zappa left the stage promising an even more "amazing" second set and urged the audience to take advantage of the voter registration booths located in the lobby.

These registration booths have been manned by the League of Women. Voters in every city on Zappa's current tour except Washington, D.C.

After a half-hour intermission, the band returned to the stage with another new song that hold the story of a sexually exploited Madison Avenue model, followed by an extended version of "The Torture Never Stops" from the "Zoot Allures" album.

"The second set continued with a series of new songs telling the story of Jim and Tammy Bakker through the sardonic eye of Zappa. Along with his sidekick Ike Willis, Zappa utilized a stuffed chimpanzee to graphically ridicule Tammy Faye, occasionally tossing the toy into the audience.

The highlight of the second set, and the entire show, occurred when the opening bars of the Beatles classic "Norwegian Wood" were heard.

This number kicked off a group of three Beatles songs that featured the lyrics of Zappa and the music of the fab four.

The theme of these songs revolved around the recent Jimmy Swaggart scandal, and the results were hilarious.

Sung to the tune of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds". "Picture yourself on your own TV station with brain-dead supporters with tears in their eyes."

Following these three numbers, the band went through a collection of individual solos, including a phenomenal percussion piece by Ed Mann, a lengthy drum solo by Chad Wackerman, and a bass solo via Scott Thunes, which led into a humorous version of "Stairway to Heaven."

The band's version of this Led Zeppelin "classic" seemed to be taken seriously by some members of the audience who zealously sang along.

As the song built to its crescendo, Zappa approached center stage, with guitar in hand, as the crowd waited in anticipation. At the moment of truth, however, he motioned to the horn section, which brought the song to its conclusion.

After briefly leaving the stage, the band returned to perform a truly moving rendition of "Watermelon in Easter Hay" from the "Joe's Garage Act II and III" LP.

As a final encore, the band pulled together a phenomenal tour de force for a powerful version of "America the Beautiful." In the Zappa tradition, the song was conspicuous in its absence of any mention of God.

Note. This is an March 9 Buffalo Shea's Theater concert review. The setlist according to the FZshows was The Black Page, Who Needs The Peace Corps?, Penguin In Bondage, Hot Plate Heaven At The Green Hotel, What's New In Baltimore?, The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing, Advance Romance, Bobby Brown, When The Lie's So Big, Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk [parts on BTHW], Any Kind Of Pain, The Torture Never Stops Medley, Texas Motel Medley, King Kong, Stairway To Heaven [TFZAAABB], Watermelon In Easter Hay, The Untouchables, America The Beautiful.