Shiny silver suits with glittering lapels, talkboxes on wheels, never-ending dance routines and multiple keytars (and keytar solos) — what a way to spend a Saturday night. Zapp came to Tokyo last weekend and showed us all why they’re still together after 35 years.
From the opening of the show it was obvious that the band’s founding members, Lester and Terry Troutman, have easily as much energy now as they did back in the band’s early-1980s heyday. Bounding about onstage in their matching suits, the two brothers and their fellow band members started off fast and strong, leaping straight into choreographed dance routines that got the crowd on its feet.
Back in 1979, Zapp & Roger (as they were best known) were given a boost in the industry by funk legends George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, who were involved in the production of their debut album. In turn, the band has influenced artists across multiple genres with its trademark electro-funk style. Zapp has been sampled by a who’s-who of hip-hop legends — you likely heard them on the talkbox for 2Pac’s hit “California Love.” The original song, “Dance Floor,” was played note-perfect at the start of the set winning the crowd in the process. Zapp then finished its performance with a high-energy rendition of the 2Pac version.
The show visited Zapp’s most famous songs, with various members switching between instruments and sharing vocal duties. The members even danced and acted in skits between the songs. The crowd specifically enjoyed “Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing).”
At one point, the house lights went out and revealed the band to be wearing LED suits, their dancing illuminated like a deleted club scene from the movie “Tron.” Most of the show wouldn’t have felt out of place at a Daft Punk gig.
Zapp slowed the tempo down just a few times during the show, once to pay tribute to original leader Roger Troutman, Lester and Terry’s brother, who died 15 years ago. Drummer Lester gave a heartfelt speech as led the crowd in chanting Roger’s name throughout the set.
The highlight of the performance for me was also a slower moment, with Zapp’s signature slow-jam “I Wanna Be Your Man” sounding fresh and vital even 30 years after its release. That track’s been on repeat for me ever since the show.
Dancier parts of the set included funk workouts “More Bounce to the Ounce” and an energetic cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” By the time the last notes of “California Love” were played, the whole crowd was on its feet, cheering for more.
Zapp has been going for a long time and with this kind of tight and energetic stage show, I predict them carrying on for a lot longer.