Zappa plays Zappa

FRANK Zappa was one of the most innovative composers of the twentieth century.

His musical legacy is vast, yet he is often remembered more for the humorous ditties he wrote to pay the bills than for his technically complex arrangements and stunning musicianship.

Frank’s eldest son Dweezil is doing a splendid job of keeping this legacy alive with his Zappa Plays Zappa tours. The eight-piece band is currently touring the UK, and brought the show to The Sage in Gateshead recently.

As concerts go, this one was an epic. A full two and a half hours of classic Frank Zappa played by what must surely be one of the tightest and most talented bands performing today.

This latest Tour De Frank has and added twist, however: it features a “Grave to Stage” element where the late Zappa senior puts in a rare appearance to jam with his son’s band via previously unreleased footage from the early seventies.

As Dweezil said, “Not only will we be performing with Frank once again via the technological wonderment of enhanced video during the live performance, but we will also be performing the works from one of his most well known albums. That’s right, ‘Apostrophe’, played in it’s album running order. It’s always been one of my favourites and it’s certainly a fan favourite as well.”

The video-based resurrection was, indeed, a wonder to behold. Frank appeared to work seamlessly with the live band and gave the audience the chance to directly compare his guitar work with that of his son. And Dweezil could surely not have given his - famously perfectionist - dad much cause for complaint.

The fans certainly weren’t complaining, either, judging by the roars and applause that followed every piece of the set. Apart from performing the entire Apostrophe album, the band played a thoughtful selection of Frank’s work – some of it well known, some less familiar.

From the opening bars of Gumbo Variations to the final encore of Muffin Man, this was a gig for music lovers by music lovers – at a venue that has the love of musical perfection built into its very structure.

Hopefully, ZPZ will return to the Sage in the not-too-distant future. If so, this is definitely not a gig to miss.

PHIL CULLEN