Review: The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa at Symphony Hall

Richard Lutz grabs a barstool for a 3D version of the ultimate Mother of Invention.


Frank Zappa wrote a song back in 1966 that was created never to get airtime. It was incendiary, too hot to handle. It was called Trouble Coming Everyday.

It was recorded after the murderous Watts Riots in Los Angeles, when brutality got out of hand. Raw police violence was pictured on TV as parts of the city burned. It was a race riot.

Zappa sang:

Each time you hear some nitwit say
He wants to go and do you in
Because the color of your skin
Just don’t appeal to him
No matter if it’s black or white
Because he’s out for blood tonight


This angry song, so full of fury and bile, was the highlight of The Bizarre World of Zappa, king of whacko rock, who died a quarter of a century ago.

It’s a great, noisy night for remembering the rock musician who either freaked you out or drew you in. On a giant multi LED screen at Symphony Hall, Pyhonesque cartoons mix with live action graphics that mix with a Frank Zappa hologram singing with a live band on the stage. Many of the musicians are old Mothers themselves. And in a visual effect act that still stuns me, at certain points the Zappo-gram mixes into 1974 real life archive of the rock star in the studio singing  songs that the hologram is belting out.


It is, in effect, a phantasmagoric evening, sometimes a stroke of genius, sometimes something veering on a sheer mess. But the live group, who know the music so well, expertly bang out a playlist filed with anarchy, avant garden jazz, hard rock and heavy duty metal: Peaches En Regalia, Stinkfoot, Penguins in Bondage and Dinah Moe Hum come to mind along with the blood-tinged anger of Trouble Coming Everyday.

In short, this is not a night out if you don’t like Frank Zappa. It’s loud, brash and sometimes grubby and trashy. But never lame or lazy.

The audience, mainly guys with comfortable bellies in their fifties and sixties, must have every one of Zappa’s billion albums.They knew his work. But they weren’t ready, sometimes, for the explosive visuals that leaped off the mega screen projections that dominated the stage and dominated this crazed and sometimes hilarious night.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa at Symphony Hall

  1. Sounds super and still relevant. Though more of a Cap’n fan myself, respect to Frank and regret not checking it out.

    Bongo Fury anyone?

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