Zappa performance filled with goods, bads

By Tom Naughton

Vidette, November 26, 1980

It looked like it could be a crazy time, the kind of experience people who would go to see Frank Zappa would expect.

Zappa came out on stage to start the first show at the Union Auditorium Friday[1] and asked for any girls in the audience who were willing to throw their bras and underwear up to him because, he said, he wanted to make a quilt out of them.

He even had a clothesline on the stage with garments gathered at previous concerts hanging on it. The audience began to warm up in anticipation of more craziness.

By the time the concert was over, however, the mood established at the beginning had been dragged down by too many long jams and not enough rapport-building by Zappa himself.

Not to say the music wasn't good. It was, in fact, superb. Zappa and his seven-member band showed they can play virtually every kind of music. The songs ranged in sound from blues, to heavy metal, to big-band. There was even a satire of Bob Dylan. Many of the songs featured excellent three-part harmony.

But every time the band began to generate some momentum on stage, they drowned it in long instrumentals that only hard-core Zappa fans could really enjoy.

Zappa is an excellent guitarist, but his long leads were probably not what the audience came to hear. When many numbers went by without any of Zappa's infamous strange lyrics being heard, the fact that the audience was not getting what it wanted showed in its response, which lessened in enthusiasm as the show went along.

Zappa's stage presence also left a lot to be desired. He spoke to the audience very few times compared with most performers; he simply played his music and usually went from one song right into another.

As with almost any concert, it took an encore to get the band to play its popular songs.

Zappa came back out on stage after leaving once and played two more songs, including "Yellow Snow," then left the stage again. Indeed, there was no clamoring for another encore.

1. Frank Zappa Gig List: The concerts in University Union Auditorium, Illinois State University, were on November 21, 1980. Zappa's band: FZ, Vinnie Colaiuta, Arthur Barrow, Bob Harris, Tommy Mars, Steve Vai, Ray White, Ike Willis. No recording of this concert is known.