This show is yet another in a long string of average, uninspired, thoroughly typical '88 shows that I have reviewed for this page. While the music on the tape may sound great (thanks to some knowledgeable stealth taper from a decade ago), the actual notes being played do not amount to anything more interesting or much different from the majority of the concerts performed thus far on the tour.
The success of the first set (this is one of the few two-set European shows) depends solely on how well you like the songs played. None of the solos are particularly interesting, and just when things seem to be heating up (during "City of Tiny Lites", thanks to some ferocious rhythm guitar work), Frank calls "Set Break", and stops the show dead in its tracks. Bad choice, Frank. The "Mr. Green Genes/OSFA" medley is the meat of the set, so if you like these songs, you may enjoy the set. Special mention must be made of "Disco Boy," however, which seems to be swinging harder than ever thanks to the horn section.
The second set is not much better than the first, though it does have a trio of songs that make things slightly more interesting. "Let's Move to Cleveland" is a good song choice (okay solo), "Bamboozled By Love" is an okay song choice (but always good in '88 solo- no exception here), and "Big Swifty" is a Monster song, which despite not containing any exceptionally noteworthy performances, is enjoyable nonetheless. Lots of Synclavier and laughing samples, but no FZ solo.
"Who Needs the Peace Corps?" provides the only true "special" moment of the night. Before starting his closing "monologue," Keneally asks certain band members to move out of his way in order that the audience may see him. This amuses both Ike and Frank, who give him a hard time and continue to joke through the remainder of the song. Nothing all that great, but the only real deviant portion of the show.
Hopefully tomorrow's show will bring better results.
The highlight of this show, and really the sole reason for acquiring this tape, arrives roughly 2 hours into the proceedings, during the otherwise routine encores. For the second and last time of the tour, Frank whips out the too-often ignored "Chunga's Revenge", inviting Dweezil onstage to celebrate the excellent song choice. And celebrate he does, pulling out a metal-tinged guitar solo that rivals the pyrotechnic display he whipped out during "Sharleena" four years earlier. Dad, of course, has to share the spotlight, with the two of them battling their way through one of the guitar highlights of the tour. This is a must-hear performance, and unless Trance Fusion manages ever to be released (don't hold your breath), it is enough of a reason to seek out this tape.
Apart from "Chunga's Revenge", however, this show- preserved by a presumably knowledgeable and experienced taper- offers up nothing more exciting than any other typical '88 show. In fact, even the usually enjoyable "Stinkfoot" hobbles out of the starting gate, failing to excite and ignite the passions as it has so often in the tour. For the most part, this is another "Medley" show, consisting of "The Republican", "The Big", "The Texas Motel", "The Torture", and "The Random Song/Random Year" medleys. Heck, even the encores are essentially a medley of frequently performed encore numbers. Sadly, none of these are performed notably well.
The only real noteworthy occurrence occurs during "Dickie's Such An Asshole", when Ed Mann messes up the Evening News lick. Frank corrects Ed in a very serious manner- this is no joke to the bandleader- and has Ed replay the lick several times. Bobby later jokes about this during "Any Kind of Pain", but nothing more comes of it (oddly enough, this would become a very big deal during the 5/4 Rotterdam show, resulting in one of the funniest shows of the year). The not-so-often-played "Cruisin for Burgers" and "Outside Now" provide a slight change of scenery midway through the first set, but Frank fails to produce anything spectacular with his solos.
Again, we get another lackluster show. Fortunately for those of us living in 1998, we know- I mean we know- that in three short days- in Würzburg - Frank would make everything all right. Can you say "Ring of Fire"?
The last of four shows in England proves to be the best of a conservative run of performances, giving the most indication of what would make many other European dates (particularly in Germany) successful. Basically, the '88 shows that don't have the advantage of Secret Word-play or guest appearances (both of which the England shows all lack, Dweezil aside) make it when the instrumentalists get enough chances to step out. And by now, the evolution of '88 setlists favors this - the stock of instrumental songs in the repertoire increases, while the Republican and Texas Motel medlies fade.
This show starts off on the right foot with "Heavy Duty Judy" revived as the most kickass opener on this tour, immediately setting FZ against Chad Wackerman in a dynamic musical battle. Wackerman, in fact, is in an aggressive mood tonight, messing with FZ quite a bit both in this song and "Cruising For Burgers" (repeated from last night), and the guitarist rises to the occasion. Even "City Of Tiny Lites" offers a focused improvised statement that keeps one's attention. This night also includes the debut of the new instrumental bridge and 13/8 guitar solo in "Trouble Every Day." Unlike the similar forthcoming change in "Marqueson's Chicken" (check this page sometime after 5/23 for debate on this topic), this new section is nothing more than a musical non sequitur to this listener's ears, but an enjoyable one.
Tonight's Monster, "Pound," begins on an unusual note with Kurt McGettrick's baritone solo (perhaps because all of the other horns had already been featured in earlier songs - another sign of a good show). Here, McGettrick gets perhaps the closest thing to a "squirting" sound that one could imagine from a baritone sax, though I don't mean to suggest that his motives were less than pure. A lengthy episode of sample-mania from Ed and Chad and an exciting looped backdrop for Albert Wing makes this a good, though short, Monster. Aside from that, this show offers few surprises, but except for a routine run of encores, the setlist and energetic playing puts it across.
I would like everyone reading this to take a moment, drop what you are doing, and go write a letter of thanks to Dirk, Tom, and Tommy. Three intrepid Germans who, through an act of sheer courage, raised a hand-written sign in a smoky concert hall and saved an entire tour. They asked for a Secret Word, they got a Secret Word, and in doing so, pushed the '88 tour to its greatest, and funniest, heights.
Without a doubt, this is the best show of the '88 tour thus far. For the most part, this is due to the "Ring of Fire" situation and the hilarity that ensues. Yes, you all know the story. Frankie meets Johnny, Johnny agrees to sing with Frankie, but wife gets sick and Johnny can't come tonight. Frankie performs Johnny's song anyway, and the rest is history. At first, the Secret Word usage is minor, with some random "Ring of Fire's" tossed around, and some interesting digressions about Anusol. Nothing all that outrageous, but more pervasive than the tour has seen so far. Then, midway through the show, Ike remembers all the fun he had in the '84 tour, when Secret Words ran rampant and nothing was sacred. Flooded with these memories, Ike decides to bring the Secret Word mutiny to a new level. The result-> "Bamboozled By Love" contains such ridiculous lines as "You know I ring her nice and kind, the way no other fire can", and "I caught her ringing off some other man". Frank hears the challenge that Ike's put forth, and, topping him the only way he can, begins singing his lines in a horrible yet hilarious Johnny Cash voice. By the time "Ain't Got No Heart" rolls around, everyone is doing their best (or worst?) Cash impersonation, and the results are laugh out loud funny.
Nothing is spared from this madness. "Stairway to Heaven" becomes "Stairway to Fire". The three instrumental tunes of the evening- "Pound", "Bonanza", and "Bolero"- are riddled with "Ring of Fire's". Frank is having such a good time that he even takes requests, playing "Bobby Brown" in response to an audience chant, throwing in the line "Tell Rosalyn she can kiss my heinie". And to top it all off, the band plays "Ring of Fire" two more times (with a mariachi verse thrown in), because as Frank says, "that is the sickest thing we could do."
The lyrical mutations aside, this still a pretty solid show. As Pat so eloquently put it, Frank's "most kickass" opener once again gets things rolling early. His "Heavy Duty Judy" solo may be his best of the night, but while there are no absolute stunners in the remainder of the show, his "Inca Roads", "Bamboozled By Love", "The Torture Never Stops", and especially "Advance Romance" and the too-short "City of Tiny Lites" solos are aggressive and satisfying affairs. The single Monster song of the night- "Pound for A Brown"- is quite short and not all that noteworthy, but the Synclavier/Loops/Percussion jam which comprises the majority of the performance is weird enough to please.
What really matters about this show, though, is the humor. The rampant Secret Word use and willingness of the band to finally give in to their "let's-act-like-idiots" urges signals the start of a whole new phase in the '88 tour. From here on out, things would be dramatically different. One helluva lot funnier, and as the humor quotient rises, interestingly enough so would the musical level. Dirk, Tom, and Tommy- we thank you!
Tonight's show started right off with "The Black Page" and a slow- developing but eventual rapid picking extravaganza of a solo by Frank. Off to the intros and the secret word of the night which is Xenakis. Also, as Den Simms writes, "mbl,mbl,mbl" or, as I hear it, "deedle,deedle,deedle" or any kind of mouthful of sausage type mumbling. In an unusual spot, "Advance Romance" is next with another rapidly-picked solo by Frank. Next was "Any Kind Of Pain" with a very slow and melodic FZ solo; after the solo he sings "stochastic sounds good," referring to the random mumble noises. The band then cruised through "Find Her Finer," "Peace Corps," and the medley of "Stick Together," "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" (nice FZ solo) and "Willie The Pimp" (another nice, short FZ solo) and then into "Montana," which, as always in '88, includes no solo.
The "big" section of the show started with a very nice "City Of Tiny Lites" with a slow, carefully phrased solo over the Secret Carlos Santana chord progression. As has been customary for years, this led right into "Pound For A Brown on the Bus," the highlight of the show for me. After the opening section, Mike stepped out and took a really nice, semi-long solo followed by one of the saxes taking a cool solo. After a bit of "swish" conducting by FZ where everything starts to blur, the band kicked into the new piece, "The Dessicated Number," which turned out to be its last public performance. This led back into more "Pound" improvs including a real nice Walt Fowler solo and some synclavier madness with a short Wackerman solo. Segue directly to "Cosmik Debris" which kind of deflated the feeling given by "Dessicated" and the cool improvs. It sounds like Ike taking the solo on this one. "Cruising For Burgers" followed and picked things back up again; good solo. "Keep It Greasy," a rare one for this tour, was well received and sounded cool with the horns; a little mess-up on "lube from the north." Before the final downbeat, FZ was handed a note requesting several items, some not Zappa related (Love Injection Machine, Burnt Weenie Sandwich, Fuck the Pope, Penis Dimension, Stick It Out). Frank can't make out most of it and sits it on the stage "because maybe later, somebody would want to use it". "Sofa" closed the set and during the band outros, he introduces the dynamic Ule. Don't know who that is, maybe the German version of Eric Buxton.
The first encores were "Bolero" and "Crew Slut" and during the band outros every member of the band was addressed as "....has a present for you." Pretty funny. The second encores were "Joe's Garage" and "Why Does it Hurt When I Pee." But the crowd was still pumped up so they got a nice "Peaches" and one of the best "Stairway"s of the tour so far.
Fun show : Frank and Ike inserted the secret mumble all over the place, including a reference to "Xenakis gonococcus," and Frank even had the audience join in with "mbl,mbl,mbl" before "Peaches."
- Bill Lantz