As Jason noted, the 1988 tour has reached a whole new level by this time. The second set of this show is one of the best I've reviewed so far, with a good selection of songs, performed excellently and drenched in secret words.
The concert starts out at a high level of energy, with "Heavy Duty Judy" - yes, definitely the most kick-ass way to start a show this year (so there, now I've said it too). FZ lets out an adrenalin-drenched solo, and Chad goes mad in the background. The energy is maintained throughout "Packard Goose," before "Alien Orifice" calms things down a bit. The relatively intricate and dynamic solo vamp of this song keeps FZ from freaking out, but seldom fails to produce an interesting solo.
Early in the show, FZ declares confidence in the English comprehension of the audience. And so we get the near-complete Republican Medley, which is very well-recieved. The most noteworthy aspects of this medley are the first mentions of tonight's secret word, "airhose", and a long, beautiful-as-always "Any Kind Of Pain" solo.
But it's not until "Torture Never Stops" that things really start to happen. FZ suddenly recalls that they're playing at the "Falcum", and the song becomes interspersed with funny Smothersisms, as well as a lot of airhoses. It seems that FZ produces his most inspired "Torture" solos when the song itself has amused him. And so we get a really nice air sculpture this time, very inspired and dynamic. In the middle of things, we get some cool FZ/Thunes interaction, and for a while the vamp switches into 12/8. The solo is concluded with some nice licks and chords, and loud cheers from the Danes.
"Find Her Finer" provides some easy listening before it's time for "Big Swifty." And wow, this is a tasty little sucker - a long series of solos (all of which are allowed to stretch out quite a bit), mixed up with lots of instrumental chaos, organized by the guy with the baton. The trombone solo is great as always and Walt's is very impressive from a technical standpoint. Mike plays a rock-type solo, which sounds weird over the odd vamp, but very cool nonetheless. We also get an FZ solo, a sax solo and a little poll (whether the audience prefers "Aarhus" (a Danish town) or "Airhose"!) - everything accompanied by a variety of good vamps. Impressive - 17 minutes of improvisational heaven!
"Bamboozled By Love" almost contains more hoses than regular words, and gets weird when FZ starts playing the synclavier during the "I ain't the type for begging" part. Another great, high energy solo follows, before it's time for some of the usual towards-the-end songs, and we begin to feel that this is about as good as it gets. The second encore comes as a very pleasant surprise: The Green Genes/OSFA medley in its entirety! Nice versions (Ike sings "Florentine Pogen" in Thing Fish style!), good solos. For FP, Frank uses an unusually nasty guitar sound for an unusually nasty solo, while "Inca Roads" shows FZ at his other extreme.
A terrific show, with only the Republican Medley failing to keep my attention. I don't think I've heard any '88 show where Frank manages to maintain such high level of energy and creativity throughout his 9 (!!) solos. Only one monster, but an excellent one, and while the first set lacks a bit on the humorous side, the highly amusing second set compensates for this.
The points of interest in tonight's main set can be listed quickly : The secret word, "Haenna hoona" ("FZ's all-purpose representation of the Swedish language," as Den puts it), enlivens the first few songs, especially "Dickie's." FZ quotes "Handsome Cabin Boy" in his "Black Page" solo. Tonight's improv vehicle, "Pound," starts in a straightforward vein with an exciting Albert Wing solo and a typical Robert Martin one, but things get weird abruptly when Ed Mann gets his turn. The bizarre musical environment here apparently moves FZ to burst into song, and so we get the only "Dangerous Kitchen" of the year.
This set is quite well-performed, but suffers from a setlist that lacks many of the more exciting '88 items. That changes with the first encore, "Crusing For Burgers." Here we get perhaps the definitive rendition (FZ used most of this take on Jazz Noise) of one of the great rediscoveries of the year, a perfect showcase for the majesty of this band and a number where FZ's new sedate soloing style truly makes sense, suggesting mature dignity rather than a lack of energy. This is one of the great moments that only this tour can provide, and explains why the '88 outing deserves a place on the list of great FZ tours in spite of its flaws.
Once again, the energy seems to spill over into the ensuing routine encore choices. "Illinois Enema Bandit" offers an unusually focused and commanding solo, and "Stairway To Hebben," I mean "Heaven," is one of the most amusing so far, with Ike slipping into the Thing Fish voice now and then and FZ adding some equally odd guitar and Synclavier interjections. On to Oslo, and another of the most celebrated nights of the tour.
It seems that many consider this "schausegch"/"fornebu" night to be one of the top Secret Word shows of '88, and it certainly has a higher density of Secret Words than most. But, for this listener, there are a few shows earlier in the tour (4/14, 4/22) and several afterwards that offer funnier Word-play. The most amusing thing tonight is the audience's eagerness to join in the fun; a couple of times, they beat the vocalists to the punch.
The setlist is also a bit disappointing, due to the low concentration of the jazz-oriented numbers that are the other half of what made the Europe '88 leg great. The major surprise comes in "Torture," when FZ quickly realizes that his guitar is out of tune and calls Walt to solo in his place. Of all the varied things that have happened in this tune over the years, Walt's solo is the most lyrical, and FZ follows it up with a decent guitar turn. FZ also turns in burning solos on "Advance Romance" and "City Of Tiny Lites," as well as a pensive one (quoting "Muffin Man," of all things) in "Oh No."
Tonight's "Pound," aside from one sax solo, consists mostly of Round Two of "Make A Sex Noise." The Norwegian sex noises provided by two female contestants turn out to be more relaxed and genteel than the Binghamton ones; they're enjoyable and even musical in their own way, but FZ expresses disappointment with the results when he tries to get the entire audience to join in. However, the lengthy round of encores indicate that he's in a good mood; the bonus is the world premiere of "Rhymin' Man," including some minor differences from the released version. (Most notably, the choruses end with the line "Who says you're a diplomat?," rather than "Oh you naughty Democrat.") A fitting end to one of the more casual and humorous '88 evenings.
The show starts off with five FZ solo vehicles in a row, none of which gets overly exciting. "Trouble Every Day" (with the 13 vamp) and "Green Hotel" both have nice solos, and the rest are OK, but it seems FZ isn't really warmed up. Next, it's time for one of my absolute favorites in the entire FZ catalogue: the 1988 arrangement of "Sinister Footwear II." The composed themes are grandious as always, while the first two horn solos sound a bit hesitant, as if the soloists were unsure about the vamp. The main solo vamp is one of the best FZ wrote, and we get two great, though too short, horn solos.
And as if that weren't enough, it's just a few minutes before it's time for another of my all time faves: "Big Swifty!" Unfortunately, the head of the song and a short bit of the improvisations are ruined by the tape flip. Most of the improvisational part consists of jamming with the synclavier, horn section + Ed, Chad and Scott. Though the musical outcome of these jams varies - much of it is awesome, while some don't go anywhere - I'm constantly amazed by the precision and skill with which they're performed. 5-6 people might be improvising at the same time, and it all sounds organized in some way, though FZ must be too busy to conduct them all the time. A good and impressive Monster, but not one of the scariest.
The setlist continues in good fashion with "Peace Corps," the Orange County Medley (great "Oh No" solo) and "Find Her Finer," before hitting another peak with the Green Genes/OSFA medley. And by now, FZ has really found inspiration and delivers 3 great solos. "Inca Roads" nearly becomes the highlight of the show, much because of Scott Thunes. His playing is great, with some cool interplay with FZ (based on the "Florentine Pogen" melody), and he adds energy to the sax solo, which is possibly the best moment in the song - an excellent, unusually lengthy excursion.
After "Sofa" (which includes a quote from "Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer", referring to tonight's underused secret word: Reindeer) and "Dancin' Fool" it's time for the moment we've all been waiting for: the Helsinki premiere of "Whipping Post!" FZ explains the background, and many in the audience seem to remember the 1974 incident. And, fittingly enough, we get one of the best renditions I've heard. I've never been too found of this song as a solo vehicle, but this one's really good. The rest of the show consists of unremarkable takes of the usual encores.
A very good show, but I must say that I expected more when I looked at the setlist, which indeed is great. It shows that FZ didn't think highly of the Finns' English comprehension - much instrumental stuff, and not less than 11 guitar solos. However, some parts, especially from the first half of the show, are a bit disappointing, and we get very little onstage antics and secret words abuse. But this was about to change for the next concert.