By Michael Popke
Originally filmed for MTV on Halloween 1981 and released by Honker Home Video in 2008, this immensely entertaining gig now gets a wider release and finds Frank Zappa at the height of one of his more accessible, song-oriented periods. That focus is evident on this two-hour set, in which a pink-jumpsuited Zappa brings his wacky world to The Palladium in New York City.
“You Are What You Is” had been released a month earlier, and much of that is featured here, including “Beauty Knows No Pain,” “Charlie’s Enormous Mouth” and a stretch of seven songs played in the order in which they appeared on the original record, from the title track to “Jumbo Go Away.”
Zappa, as expected, squeezes insane notes from his guitar and engages in biting satire. But his seven-man band (including a youngster named Steve Vai) is just as mesmerizing and integral to the performance, whether playing off-kilter arrangements or singing their twisted little hearts out. Wacky but darkly wonderful, this DVD is a powerful introduction for newcomers and a valuable release for longtime fans.