Zappa at his bizarre best

Show review by Roy Carr

New Musical Express, December 5, 1970

At the time of writing his '1812 Overture', Peter Tchaikovski considered it to be no more than a light hearted discriptive work of little importance. It was left to a much later generation to reflect upon it's merits.

I'm not drawing parallels, but I don't think it's too presumptuous to assume that to future musicologists the works of Francis Vincent Zappa will be looked upon as being indicative of certain aspects of our quickly disposable instant product society. And to present it he has used the most acceptable and quickest method of mass communication . . . a rock band.

Zappa may choose to cacoon his work in the most outrageous humour, but even this can't overshadow the strength and validity of his creativeness . . . but then perhaps it's not supposed to, just compliment it?

Though Sunday's soiree at the London Coliseum was a brief and informative excursion into some of his most bizarre antics, the music which fluctuated between sheer brilliance and haughty schoolboy pornography was still the prime focal point.

The evening's entertainment commenced with a situation which would have even inspired Fellini. Entering stage left, a dinner-suited pianist started vamping out "Moon River" on an upright.

Almost immediately, the stage was taken over by a midget lady tap dancer, a female juggler, an illusionist, and low-n-behold, a troupe of performing dogs who camped it up in the grand old tradition of the music hall.

Then to whoops and cheers of recognitin from a capacity audience, Uncle Frank welcomed us with "Hello boys and girls," while his Mothers of Invention cavorted about prior to roaring into an extended version of "Vegetables," which was followed by excerpts from his musical-documentary of group life on the road "200 Motels."

Though each member of the Mothers is an individualist, at one time or another during the non-stop performance they completely come under the almost Svengaliesque direction of F. V. Zappa to the point where they become the synthesis of his personality.

Continually drawing on the basic mechanics of Rock Americana. Much of the vocal overtones reflect the nostalgic "Noo Yoirk" monotones of a bygone era.

In ex-Turtles Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, the Mothers have an unequalled brace of singer-comedians. Completely uninhibited in their delivery, their camping about during "200 Motels" and the subsequent take-offs of the messrs. Daltry and Morrison turned it into an operetta. Without a doubt they are Zappa's main visual assets.

Of the rest of the group, the internal rapport which exists between Ian Underwood and our very own ex-patriot Aynsley Dunbar on drums is quite outstanding in his flexibility and precision.

I don't presume to fully understand what goes on in Frank Zappa's agile mind . . . I expect very few, if any, can admit to it. To pretend to would be facetious.

Though others may argue the point, I feel that Zappa takes his work most seriously. Above all his eccentric genius has to be admired and respected.

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