Live review: The Bizarre World Of Frank Zappa, Playhouse, Edinburgh, Thu 9 May
- Henry Northmore
- 10 May 2019
Hologram tour from rock's chief surrealist and frequent collaborators
Ever since Tupac sauntered on stage at Coachella in 2012 the hologram 'live' performance has become a reality. The perfect way to ensure any artist turns up on time … even after death. Frank Zappa died in 1993 but now he's back on the road in virtual form.
Zappa fans are insanely loyal of the sonic maverick and master comedian, dedicating hours marvelling over and dissecting his prolific output (he made a staggering 62 albums in his lifetime and a further 50 have been released posthumously).
Unsurprisingly the music at the show is astounding. Packed with weird tempo changes, bizarre lyrics, complex rhythms and serious funk. The live band are exceptional: guitarists Ray White and Mike Keneally, bassist Scott Thunes and multi-instrumentalist Robert Martin all played with Zappa in various forms and lineups over the years (joined by Zappa archivist Joe 'Vaultmeister' Travers on drums). The technical specifications mean they are shunted to the side of the stage with screens front and centre, as they have to play in sync with the footage there's no room for improvisation.
Fully endorsed by his son Ahmet and the Zappa Family Trust, is this a cold blooded cash grab or a digital resurrection? The visual show is impressive mixing archive footage, collage and animation. Perfectly matching Zappa's surreal humour and idiosyncratic approach to songcraft. The hologram itself when it's 'on stage' is remarkable (though it's worth noting it only appears during certain tracks). It feels solid but unnatural. Despite the presence of six world class musicians on stage you find your eyes transfixed on the screen. There's a weird disconnect so the entire show feels midway between a live gig, a concert film and a music video. However, you get the impression this is exactly the kind of weirdness Zappa would have approved of.