Frank Zappa. Wembley Arena.

By John Wilde

Melody Maker, April 30, 1988

THIS was a re-healed Zappa, though I could detect a slither or two of ice in the unbaked centre. A chancey conglomerate or satire, the usual oinks and bongs, obscene guitar blood-baths, unexpected order and (cha cha cha) Loony Toons-style lunacy. No more. Charles Manson was not, repeat not playing the flute, as advertised. It was Broadway brought to another planet, but running out of gas, and having to settle with North London.

As a heathen, I can watch the lukewarm cheese nachos drip mischievously into my lap with a minimum of fuss. For me, rear life begins and ends with Captain Beefheart's sexy growl. Zappa is not so strange to me. I'm not impressed by his Ian Rush moustache. There is too much Rodgers & Hammerstein, not enough Sal Dali for my liking. Zappa begins and ends with "Freak Out" (I'm overlooking "We're Only In It For The Money" in the interest of controversy here). That's a tidy way of saying, "shut your streaky bacon face and go to bed". It's a long way back from Wembley, especially with headaches like nuclear warheads.

There're 8,000 disciples (most of them refugees from reality by the giveaway mashed potato eyes) drooling at Zappa's every move. Self-indulgence is being applauded like never before. It's given new names. Tabernacle and tree-trunk. Having Frank Zappa for a god is a daft notion anyway. This, remember, is the single most over-rated artist to ever compose a song about a human being's relationship with dental floss. Idiot.

Tonight he sups on a thick mug of steaming cocoa and wanders around the stage like he's misplaced the TV guide. Occasionally he picks up a baton and casually conducts his over-sized and over-fed band. Usually in the brief space between some flared guitar orgy and camp Broadway whirl. There is no outrage. There are few of the absurd eruptions we might expect from a 48-year-old Frank Zappa tom to dish rags. There is a lot splicing going on, as we all expect. Just playing some new tricks. Going through some new motions. Joining things up in a slightly old way. Biting a hand already bled dry.

Legend is a lying dog, as we all know. Legend has it that Zappa once walked out on stage, sat down at a table, tucked into a hearty meal of steak and beans. before walking away to a stunned silence. It anything like this had happened tonight, I would have shook his hand for a very strange and very long time.

One week after Alice Cooper sent up the entire world in all its constipated obviousness at this large living room, Zappa limps along to colour in the full stop. He is a ham-salesman with a unique vision that has seemingly worn out its glimmer. This was a nameless, numb adventure. Frank Zappa is from out of space and almost out of breath. Frank Zappa is the dumbest god in a jogging-suit. He should tie a pillow to his career face or find a new place to call home. This skull never said anything. You call this living. I call this rotting fish in the middle drawer. A peculiar way to throttle a legend, quite frankly.