Caught In The Act - Frank Zappa

By Chris Welch

Melody Maker, February 19, 1977

“FORGET HIM, BRYAN!” advised Frank Zappa as the skinny Eddie Jonson stepped up for a solo on glass vioin, “for he knows not what he does,” added Uncle Frank with ill-concealed glee.

He had good reason to be in high spirits, for rock’s most consistently provocative genius was in the midst of engaging a highly-receptive audience with a super-powerful hand. He could celebrate his coup in inviting the talented Jobson into the Zapparian ranks, thus ensuring musicianship with added teen appeal; and he could feel the warmth of an audience that gave him one of the greatest ovations I can recall at an FZ performance in some years.

While Thursday’s night concert at the Odeon Harnmersmith last week took a while to warm up, Frank’s enjoyment of a fine band seemed to spill over into wanting to involve the audience, and he ended up executing a dainty twist with strange gyrations, like Olive Oyle enticing Popeye. [1]

The band opened with “Peaches En Regalia,” Eddie at the keyboards, Frank joining him on exuberant melody lines. It seemed like FZ was going to remain silent, just devoting himself te the guitar, but eventually he stepped up front and began to jest and rap in
that marvellousy hip approximation of a West Coast deejay‘s patter.

Into “The Torture Never Stops” from the new album “Zoot Allures,” and I was glad to hear he cut down on the screaming, although sections of the audience, who obviously enjoy a spot of violence began shouting along to fill in the gags.

“Big Leg Emma” swung with great joie de vivre, and as they worked through such items as “City Of Tiny Lites,” “Pound For A Brown,” “ Bone Crushing Love,” and “My Guitar Wants To Kill Yer Mama” (instead or gently weeping), Frank jammed at length, occasionally sitting down to construct intriguing jazz solos, or getting to his feel for angry, picking rock.

When Eddie Jobson went into his marvellous violin solo on “Black Napkins,” he astounded those of us who had never been greatly impressed by the much-vaunted Roxy Music. I hadn’t realised that Eddie was such a good musician until he soloed at length, his violin eschewing bent notes and screeches so often favoured by rock fiddlers, concentreting instead on liquid notes and a beautiful tone.

It was a splendid and thoroughly convincing return for Frank, and afterwards many London musicians were saying it was the best concert seen in years. But would we hear or see such things on TV or radio? Aye, there lies the rub.

1. FZ had four concerts in Odeon Hammersmith, London, in February 1977 - 9, 10, 16, 17. This review is on February 10 concert. The setlist was (FZshows): The Purple Lagoon, Peaches En Regalia, The Torture Never Stops, Big Leg Emma, City Of Tiny Lights, A Pound For A Brown, Jones Crusher, My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama, Tryin' To Grow A Chin, Broken Hearts Are For Assholes, Dong Work For Yuda, Manx Needs Women, Titties 'n Beer (w/ Black Sabbath Devil), Black Napkins (q: Black Sabbath, Alvin Lee riff), Dinah-Moe Humm, Willie The Pimp.

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