Return To Forever w/ Zappa Plays Zappa | Fall Tour | Review | Pics
Show Review: Return To Forever w/ Zappa Plays Zappa :: 09.22.11 :: The Warfield :: San Francisco, CA
Photos: Return To Forever w/ Zappa Plays Zappa :: 09.08.11 :: Fox Theatre :: Atlanta, GA
Full photo gallery for Atlanta performance below review!
And just when things couldn’t get any better for us music snobs, RTF tapped Dweezil Zappa and his band Zappa Plays Zappa to round out this epic cream dream of a tour. ZPZ is a behemoth eight-piece ensemble which is devoted to re-imagining the works of Frank Zappa with full-fledged, fleshed-out precision. Now in its fifth year of touring, this project delivers Zappa’s mind-bendingly difficult compositions with effortless grace and fluidity. And while the band no longer features any original Zappa band members or special tricks (early tours featured archival footage of Frank “soloing” in real-time over the live band), this group more than holds its own with this daunting body of work.
After a lengthy set-break (an eight-piece band’s gear takes a while to dismantle), we were welcomed into the world of RTF with Chick Corea‘s otherworldly vintage synthesizer intro to “Medieval Overture,” a complex instrumental number that the band executed with pure, fluid precision. Gamble and Ponty played the song’s complex riffs in unison, blending their instruments together in a tonal mash that worked nicely. Throughout the set, these masters found ample opportunities to break the music off into assorted duels – Corea and Ponty dazzled us with soaring, melodic interplay, and soon after we were treated to a playful Corea/Stanley Clarke duel which was practically telepathic – you could hear the 40 years of experience these guys have playing with each other in every musical exchange.
After some more high-octane numbers that saw Gambale’s mighty riffage dominate the improv, the spotlight shone on Ponty for “Renaissance,” a composition taken from his fantastic 1975 album Aurora. This saw the band bring it down, but no intensity was lost in this acoustic setting – Ponty’s mesmerizing, harmonics-laced violin flourishes had us rapt in slack-jawed awe. This was followed by a thunderous upright bass solo from Clarke that practically moved mountains – the way he slapped, strummed, attacked, and straight-up man-handled his instrument was a sight to behold.
After closing with the gorgeous tune “Spain” (perhaps Corea’s most famous composition), the band let out all the stops for the encore, an arena-size take on “School Days,” the hard-rocking title track of Clarke’s 1976 solo album, which was at the time a breakthrough commercial hit for the world of fusion. This riff-heavy tune saw all band members move to the front of the stage (with Corea on the Moog) for a defining, nostalgic rock-star moment. Something special happened during this song – there seemed to be a great release of sorts and the music just came pouring out. Everyone tore into their solos with flurries of wild abandon, and an air of majesty seemed to appear around the band – it hearkened back to a lost time when pure musicianship could earn you real rock-star status. And though such a time is 30-plus years gone, the decades seemed to fall away with each soaring lead, and on this night, RTF earned their rightful status of true rock stars once again. To quote some true music fans, “We’re not worthy.”
Zappa Plays Zappa Setlist:
Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?
City of Tiny Lites
Yellow Snow Suite:
-Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow
-Nanook Rubs It
-St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast
Willie The Pimp (w/ Frank Gambale)
Return To Forever Setlist:
Sorceress / Shadow of Lo
Renaissance (Jean-Luc Ponty)
After the Cosmic Rain
School Days (Stanley Clarke)
JamBase | Fused
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