Treacherous Cretins – live review at Greystones, Sheffield – 16/02/23

There are far too many tribute bands these days and only a few truly stand out.  So when a band like Treacherous Cretins sets a path through the music of Frank Zappa then attention needs to be paid as they go forth to celebrate the music of Uncle Frank, tackling the more complex compositions without fear or trepidation, such is the high standard of the musicianship within the band.  They also have the addition of a Zappa alumni, multi-instrumentalist Bobby Martin whose higher register vocals, French Horn and keyboards were an essential part of Zappa’s touring band from 81-88.

Let us be completely honest here, Zappa’s music is an acquired taste so whilst other bands will pull much bigger crowds is a truly dedicated bunch of Zappa enthusiasts that have gathered here this evening “To twist ‘n frugg, In an arrogant gesture, To the best of what the 20th Century has to offer” or at least what the Treacherous Cretins have to offer here at the Greystones in Sheffield. 

Judging by the set times on the door this is going to be a long show, very long, and whilst I wait for the show to start I recall one of Frank’s quotes about rock journalism “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”.  And let’s face it, he is very quotable even if this line may have originated from Marin Mull.

Once the band gets underway it is easy meat for them whilst the audience is transfixed and completely in the Zappa zone.  Whilst there isn’t one of the infamous dance contests, a lot of the audience are certainly moving in time with the music and with the odd time signatures comes odd dancing – and I’ll include myself in the odd dancing. The pace is frantic yet the music is perfectly executed, there is a wonderful selection from Roxy & Elsewhere which I am transfixed by starting with Village Of The Sun and ending with More Trouble Every Day with several of us singing along, a stunning version of Peaches En Regalia ending the first set.

Poor Bobby Martin doesn’t get a break as he is quizzed by a couple of Zappa aficionados who just want to get an insight or two into Zappa days. And before we have had time to say “dog breath variations” set two starts with an utterly brilliant Zoot Allures, several of us singing along to What’s New In Baltimore, a humorous if somewhat interrupted Joes Garage with Ollie Hill managing to keep control… just, and the set ending with Sam Ward’s brilliant guitar playing coming to the fore in Watermelon In Easter Hay.

The encore could only be the Allman Brothers Whipping Post, which Bobby Martin made his own on Does Humour Belong in Music? 

And after over two and a half hours on stage, there are no complaints from anyone here witnessing a setlist that has been both career-spanning and extensive, with a band that did not shy away from complex compositions.  The young lady who had been dancing next to me throughout this performance was in tears, such is the strong emotional connection some people have to Zappa’s music.  And remember folks…

“Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is THE BEST.”

That extensive setlist:

Set one:
Treacherous Cretins
I Ain’t Got No Heart
City of Tiny Lights
Big Swifty
Pound for a Brown
Uncle Remus
Dog Breath Variations
Village Of The Sun
Echidna’s Arf (Of You)
Son of Orange County
More Trouble Every Day
Magic Fingers
Peaches En Regalia

Set two:
Zoot Allures
Bamboozled by Love
What’s New In Baltimore
Joe’s Garage
Marqueson’s Chicken
Advance Romance
Clowns On Velvet
Duke Of Prunes
Sinister Footwear
Any Kind of Pain
Watermelon at Easter Hay

Whipping Post

Sam Ward – Guitar
Jen Parkinson – Keyboards
John Parkinson Drums
Ollie Hill – vocals and trombone
Bobby Martin – vocals, French horn, sax, keyboards

Photos by Ant Firmin

About Ant Firmin