Friday, November 20, 2009

Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa at Stubbs

I saw Zappa Plays Zappa again after at Stubbs last night. Previously, I had seen ZPZ two times. Unlike those previous shows, I was a little tentative about this one. If I am to believe the rumors, all is not well in the ZPZ camp. There's squabbling with other Zappa Tribute Bands, special guests going AWOL, and musicians leaving the "core" band.

For this particular tour, there are no Alumni/Special Guests, the primary keyboard player, Aaron Arntz is gone, and there's a new lead singer, Ben Thomas. Ben was a very accomplished vocalist, but didn't have the extra umph and stage presence of a Napoleon Murphy Brock or Ray White.

The show started somewhere around 8PM, with Apostrophe and lasted approximately 2 hours, maybe 2 hours and 15 minute. Dweezil mentioned after the first song that there would be an Austin guitarist joining the band on stage, but didn't identify him at that time. I found the remainder of the show to be well done, but lackluster when compared to the two previous shows I had seen. There was some effort to play new material not covered on previous ZPZ tours, however they obviously avoided some songs.

Later, the special guest ended up being Eric Johnson. Once again, I listened to Eric's somewhat shaky blues improvisational skills. Now I like Eric just as much as the next fan, but jamming is not one of his strengths. This show confirmed what I had witnessed at a Robben Ford show a couple years back. Eric had the same problem then, although it was more obvious because David Grissom was also on stage. Fortunately, Dweezil helped keep this potential train wreck on the rails.

My remaining comments about the show: Sheila Gonzalez plays some absolutely awesome Saxophone (and Keys) during the show, and Billy Hulting on Vibes/Percussion, and Joe Travers were also impressive. This was however, the weakest of the 3 shows that I have seen. Then again, it's hard to top having Ray White, as lead singer.

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