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Taking out the Thrash 

Zaza returns to Playhouse Square with a gospel-heavy Christmas show.

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Cleveland's Neil Zaza shreds guitar for tonight's One Silent Night concert. But don't think the two-hour show is all thrash-rock on holiday staples like "O Holy Night" and "Little Drummer Boy": Zaza will share the stage with the Lakewood Project, Lakewood High's professional-caliber rock orchestra, along with Italian musicians he met on tour and a full gospel choir. "I always wanted the element of gospel in the show — taking it to the church, but not in a religious way," says the 42-year-old Zaza. "I just like the way they embrace the music and are full of energy."The concert will also include a few of his originals. Good thing for Zaza's fans, who haven't heard much from him lately. Along with a trip to Europe during most of this year, he also laid down tracks for his latest CD, When Gravity Falls, with guest spots by Peter Frampton and Journey's Steve Smith. Van Halen's Michael Anthony also pitched in a few bass licks, only to get pink-slipped by the newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and replaced by guitarist Eddie Van Halen's son. "I know Eddie was pissed about [him recording with me]," says Zaza. "They don't want anyone doing anything outside of the band." But at Christmas, Zaza finds himself home for the holidays with his rock renditions of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and "O Come All Ye Faithful." "It's the only time I perform in front of my home crowd," says Zaza. "It really gets to me. That's why I always try to make the show better." One Silent Night starts at 8 tonight at the Palace Theatre, 1615 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $16 to $40. Call 216-241-6000 or visit www.playhousesquare.org.
Sat., Dec. 15, 8 p.m., 2007

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