Old Concert Review – The Zappatistas – Lichfield Guildhall – 26th April 2003

The Zappatistas – 26th April 2003

A sold-out Lichfield Audience was witness to a concert of breathtaking originality and vigour when The Zappatistas played at the Guildhall.

Frank Zappa’s music was its changing tempos, key and time signatures and non linear phrasing is a challenge to listen to, let alone play, but the eight piece band managed the task with aplomb. The eight musicians, various instruments, and a large number of music stands and manuscript paper were crammed onto the small stage, and went into the first number.  The very loud and fast version of ‘Peaches and Regalia’ that the band played to open the set nearly tore the roof of the historical building.

The three piece brass section played the main themes, while guitarist John Etheridge played Zappa’s complex guitar lines with startling accuracy and speed. The momentum of this number was kept up for most of the first half of the concert, with the riffing on ‘The Great Wazoo’ providing a highlight.

Each number that the band played was received with rapturous applause by the audience, many of whom were obviously long term fans of the late Mr Zappa.

The band did justice to more of the man’s music, before John Etheridge and keyboard player and arranger Steve Lodder played the affecting guitar and keyboard duet ‘Sofa No 1’.

The band played this complex music in a way that made it accessible to a large number of people. Using a three piece brass section of trombone, trumpet, and Saxophone bought out the Jazz elements within the music, and helped to give the band a far wider range of tonal colours.

The use of a percussionist as well as drums, and the exceptional fretless bass playing of Rob Statham drove the band from the back, and each of the band members was given a chance to solo. Having said this, none of the songs out-stayed their welcome or descended into the self-indulgent noodling that is often the bane of many jazz rock bands.

The last number featured a duet between guitar and vibraphone, the vibraphone played by last minute substitute, James While. The band played one encore. They did Frank proud.

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