Glad Zappa's Back

By Linda Winer

Chicago Tribune, May 7, 1970

FRANCIS Vincent Zappa and seven other Mothers of Invention did a two-hour set last night in the Auditorium. For the first show, that is. Twenty minutes after Zappa thanked us all for coming to his concert they started the whole thing over again. [1]

Those familiar with the windy warm-up acts and the short feature sets we accept as conventions of the downtown rock scene will surely appreciate the phenomenon. But then, Frank Zappa and the Mothers have been a recognized authentic phenomenon long before last night.

The only group around who can start a song with music stolen from Stravinsky's ballet "Agon," jumps into a unison chorus of "grow a little vegetable; chances are the vegetable will respond to you," continue with a solo yodel on the word "rutabaga," and finish with "what a pumpkin," is back on the stage – at least for a while.

Zappa is back, beating time by an occasional bounce into the air, looking like a yardstick with a ponytail and block-long arms that zap at a man and music comes out. He and the Mothers are much more restrained, however, than they were even last summer when they cavorted in bizarre balletics across Ravinia's stage.

To be sure, the eight did some of the comedy routines that helped make their reputation as top rock satirists before Sha Na Na was more than a line in "Get a Job." The important thing about the Mothers, however, is the music.

Musical ideas grow naturally, one from another, so that all the traditional jazz, the rock, the progressive riffs seem to belong together. A tenor saxophone solo in a song about a social disease starts out simple, develops into the high pitched, irregular speech rhythms of the avant-garde, and flows back to where it's easy to take. A drum solo has crossed hands hitting cymbal and bass in a fraction, yet doesn't seem like showing off.

Zappa puts a Baroque dance rhythm within "Cruising for Burgers," and it fits right in. Some Mothers are new to the group which was re-formed for a practice Mothers day tour before the introduction of Zappa's orchestral ballet "200 Motels," next week with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A lot of rock has come and gone in the eight months that they've been away from Chicago. Truthfully, it's all just made me appreciate the Mothers more. 

1. These two concerts in May 6, 1970, at Auditorium Theater in Chicago, were part of short so called "MOI reunion" tour (see FZShows). The band was: Frank Zappa, Ray Collins, Jeff Simmons, Aynsley Dunbar, Billy Mundi, Ian Underwood, Don Preston, Motorhead Sherwood. No tapes and songlists of these Chicago concerts are known.

Here is a picture from this concert taken by Kirk West (thank you, Javier):

Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at)