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Zappa Plays Zappa at the Wiltern 8/23/07 He Says

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It was a hell of a thing to see Dweezil Zappa onstage at the Wiltern last night, jamming with his pop, who of course passed away fourteen years ago. You can thank modern technology. Frank was projected on a large screen behind the actual living musicians, who played along to his vocal and guitar tracks.

Of course we’ve seen this kind of thing before, Natalie Cole’s sentimental duet with her father being the first that comes to mind, and Kenny G forcibly inserting into himself into Louis Armstrong being the most offensive. It’s not easy to be openhearted about the concept with these kind of predecessors. But I have to admit, this one actually worked.

Dweezil first brought the Zappa Plays Zappa concept to life last year, performing key moments from his dad’s catalog with several band alumni. This year, there’s only one guy from the old days but it’s a good one: Ray White, the elder Zappa’s vocalist and guitarist from 1978 to the bitter end, whose voice has held up remarkably well. Surrounding him, a bunch of ringers who appear to be serious music school types. Young but ferocious players, launching into these endlessly complex tunes for a solid three hours with no fear. And for five tunes, Phantom Frank takes over the airwaves and demands the live players synch up with him, still telling everybody what to do.