When you have nearly half a century of film scores to choose from and you don the Neumos stage on a Tuesday night, which one do you play first? These are the types of questions you would ask yourself if you were master Italian composer Fabio Frizzi. Frizzi is the second four-decades-deep horror soundtrack god to play Seattle this year, following John Carpenter’s sleek and stylish live retrospective at the Paramount Theater. But Frizzi is a man with more relatable tastes and passions - a lover of the films he’s helped create from master directors like Lucio Fulci. But watching comfortably from the distance of the composer’s chair, Frizzi gets to put space between the notes, enjoying some of the soundtracks he’s created even for movies he’ll happily laugh off as rotten tomatoes. With Fulci's passing, Frizzi gained a wonderful idea - why not tour a tribute to his friend Lucio in the form of a two-hour concert? Playing everything from the early westerns to grimy later creepshows like A Cat in the Brain, he could give Fulci the love and respect he deserved, leading the whole operation himself at the piano and acoustic guitar. Thus was born Frizzi 2 Fulci, an exhibition of spectacular bredth that has toured the world, and this week for the first time sets its teeth on Seattle. Before an intimate Neumos audience with a dazzling backdrop of Italian horror history, Fabio Frizzi showcased his masterful legacy in The Zombie Apocalypse Tour, a show that fans could just die for.Frizzi’s compositions have a power over their audience above and beyond the films they soundtrack. At any point during the maestro’s performance, you could close your eyes and fade into the hazy, psychedelic compositions and drown in an ocean of possibilities. It’s this realm of possibilities that Italian horror so often dwells upon, so much more so than the certain torment of American horror films. There is always an air of mystery and illusion that goes above and beyond the attention and understanding of both viewer and subject, and the survival of this feeling owes everything to the soundtrack. Halfway through the set, Frizzi took a break from the horror films to play a suite from an early Fulci collaboration - the western film Four of the Apocalypse. Here, with three sung tunes, Frizzi and his band don’t break from the haunting or the atmospheric. Instead, the call of the wide horizon seems to have the same beckoning call as the spirits from the beyond elsewhere in his work. While there are plenty of moments of true horror and anxiety, this andante feeling of exploration seems to dominate Frizzi’s work. It’s a calming, relatable walk sharply contrasted by the highlight reel of terror playing behind every song.
On stage, the maestro is the image of deserved legacy. Never pompous and never difficult, he leads his band firmly through every passage, politely looking out at the audience with a knowing smile when they accidentally clap between movements. But when each of the film suites end and the applause erupts, he is jovial, glancing around at his incredible band to make sure that here at Neumos - a far cry from the churches and concert halls around the globe where Frizzi has taken them before - they feel like the rock stars they truly are. One of the great joys of seeing Frizzi on this Zombie Apocalypse Tour as opposed to one of the original Frizzi 2 Fulci performances is that he occasionally broke from Fulci material, delving into other colorful arrangements. One such new segment was a suite from Monster Shark, the classic 80s b-movie for which Frizzi supplied an upbeat Italo-disco score. As dancing broke out across the floor and rapturous applause followed, Frizzi just laughed and looked around at his band. “Ok”, he seems to say inside his head, “I guess we’ll keep that one”.
The maestro’s actual words are limited. A few in Italian are uttered to the band to give direction and provocation throughout the two hour set, but to the audience, Frizzi kept it short and sweet. He gave special introduction to a suite of newer themes he’d worked on, including the truly haunting Saint Frankenstein and a few other more modern numbers. Another exciting highlight was given to a segment from Frizzi’s upcoming “Composer’s Cut” of The Beyond, his most famous Fulci collaboration, for which Frizzi is giving a re-score and redux to focus on the music (recording is slated to start in January, he said onstage). Otherwise, he allowed the audience at whatever level of familiarity they possessed to come to his creations anew. Even with his fantastic seven member band, the Frizzi scores are stripped down to their elements, letting the listener (and viewer) really feel the drivers of each work’s emotion. Some particular applause should go to his bass player Roberto, who ripped into A Cat In The Brain with as much ferocity as the film’s subject. Frizzi’s performance was nothing if not sensory overload - a sweeping journey across a true master’s eloquent legacy. Ending with the highly danceable and unforgettable theme from Zombi, Frizzi left Seattle in all smiles, truly a dream-weaver for all those who have him to thank for endless wanderings into the darkness.
While there are many places you can secure Fabio Frizzi's many soundtracks and Frizzi 2 Fulci recordings, the best place to grab them stateside is over at Mondo, on vinyl or CD.
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