Zappa receives abnormal reaction

By David Heller

Vidette, July 9, 1974

When someone like Frank Zappa comes to Normal, Illinois, it's quite an event. And, when the living legend himself appeared onstage in the Auditorium last Wednesday night, Normal was gratified.[1] While Zappa didn't get the kind of reaction a man of his musical stature deserves, it was obvious that it was worth any effort anybody made to see him. Whether or not is was worth Zappa's effort was debatable.

It was painfully evident throughout the performance that many people expected th hear "Dinah Moe Hum" for two hours. It is Zappa's misfortune that his "Overnite Sensation" album is the only one most people are familiar with. His backward forays met most often with a confused admiration. They were performed with typical Zappa precision, and displayed some characteristics of the modern Mothers, but it wasn't until they struck up "Montana" that the audience warmed up entirely. In between songs, however, Frank made a reference to Bloomington Airport's holiday observance, and by the end of the show, after a halting "Dinah Moe Hum," a tired Frank Zappa sat bored and sullen in the wings waiting to do the encore.

The encore, "Apostrophe," was a highlight of the show, as were "Willie the Pimp" and the response to the request for "Uncle Meat." The rest of the show was a combination of the finest music to play inside the Auditorium and some nonchalant ramblings, quite uncharacteristic of the old Zappa and Mothers. The group onstage seemed torn between creating the effect of an informal party and a structured concert.

The moments of uncertainty onstage weren't the only ones that night, though. Few people may have noticed, but the Flock did not play as scheduled, due to someone's failure to secure permission from Zappa for them to do so. And no matter how Zappa looked while he was playing, his attitude in interview showed he was not too happy with his situation Wednesday night. A series of oneword answers and a Zappa-style handshake were quite a switch from the personality he injects into his music.

The music of the Mothers of Invention has always been a strange combination of the absurd and genius. The leading genius, of course, is Frank Zappa, but the Mothers are a large factor. Right now Zappa has one of the best collection of Mothers in his history. Their performance Wednesday night was one of the finest Normal has seen in a long time. Not much is known about the man other than his music, but that proved to be quite enough, no matter how happy he was to be here.

1. Frank Zappa Gig List: The concert was on July 3, 1974. Zappa's band: FZ, Chester Thompson, Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke, Tom Fowler, Ruth Underwood, Jeff Simmons. No recording of this concert is known.