The main set of this show offers a superb setlist - the only dispensable number is "We're Turning Again," and the Republican Medley is rare enough by now to be welcome. Though there's not much Secret Word action yet (although "cornhole" makes its debut appearance in "Any Kind Of Pain"), the set succeeds brilliantly on musical terms alone, especially in the great stretch of five songs following the last "Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk."
"Dupree's Paradise" is a masterful non-Monster version, including Walt's solo from the album. This leads into the revived "Easy Meat" - FZ's solo wanders a bit, but it compares better to its predecessors than the average '88 "Inca Roads" does, and the horns simply sound glorious on the instrumental interlude. Next we get "Sinister Footwear," and then "City Of Tiny Lites," in which FZ rips it up on this usually-forgettable-this-year song (as he does in the "Black Page" opener). Finally, the Monster, "Pound," wanders through many odd territories, but it peaks when FZ starts his loops and the rhythm section joins in, producing an unusually heavy, melancholy mood. After an agitated Kurt McGettrick solo, FZ takes control and begins soloing himself, and, for a minute or two, we have one of the most powerfully emotional guitar moments since "St. Etienne." Then FZ brings in the "Star Wars Won't Work" loop, sounding sour here rather than humorous. Finally, and unsurprisingly, he cuts it all off and the band jumps into "Outside Now."
Of course, the night wouldn't be complete without some humor. First, we get yet another inspired request ("Ring Of Fire"), then, after "Peaches," comes the "cornhole" rendition of "Stairway To Heaven." Along with Stuttgart, this version represents the ultimate destruction of this classic rock warhorse - it's a shame that copyright regulations forced FZ to go with the tame Best Band edit rather than the version he edited together from these two nights. Bending things even further, "The Untouchables" pops up out of nowhere in the middle of all this. The standard "Walrus Bandit" second encore comes next, but this night, too, still deserves a place near the top of the list of '88 shows.
The last of the inspired final trilogy of German concerts is also the least, in terms of musical interest. However, it's worthwhile due to some good performances and one of the strangest onstage moments of all time.
Not to keep people in suspense, this moment comes about 15 minutes into the set, in the middle of the thoroughly standard Stick/My Guitar etc. medley. Tonight, FZ decided to throw a curveball by inserting "Ride Of The Valkyries" in place of the "Willie The Pimp" guitar solo, but it sounds like the band missed its cue, because all we get is the Wagner melody played on one synth above a chugging bass line, while Chad sounds like he still thinks they're playing "Willie." Pathetic. However, this hardly compares to what comes next - the '88 band's one, disastrous attempt at playing "Purple Haze" onstage. (The Best Band version is from the soundcheck two nights later.) The parts are there, but it's hopelessly off-kilter from the start (it seems that most of the band is playing at only half the correct tempo), and it basically sounds like one long train wreck. Both the audience and the band sound totally confused. Finally, after two verses, FZ cuts this mess off and jumps in with a solo. Eventually, the rhythm section finds a groove and joins in, and this, in contrast, is quite cool indeed, similar to the "Star Wars Won't Work" solo. After a minute or so, FZ stops playing, Scott and Chad come to an abrupt halt, and the band returns to the familiar territory of "Montana."
This weirdness made me want to get the tape and probably did (or will do) the same for most people reading this page, which is fortunate, since not much else happens during the show. Though the setlist is good, most of tonight's versions don't match up to others from this month. "You Are What You Is," appearing in the first circulating '88 version here, suffers from the absence of Ray White's vocal part in the second half. (At least they knew better than to bother with "Mudd Club.") However, the OSFA medley is nice - FZ's angry "Andy" solo appears on the album, and he also turns in a strong "Inca" break with some unusual effects. The sax solo in "Inca Roads" is unusually slow out of the gate, but Chad kicks it into high gear with a powerful drum fill - again and again, especially on these last nights in Germany, he demonstrates his value as the driver of the band.
The setclosing versions of "Bobby Brown" and "Stairway To Heaven" are certainly among the weirdest versions, thanks to some more cow-inspired Secret Word business (no clue what this is about) and some jokes about the scantily-clad woman in the audience who evidently caught the band's attention through much of the set. I doubt that Mike Keneally ever imagined that FZ would ever change the words of "Bobby Brown" in his honor, but it happens tonight, reportedly due to the especially great amount of attention he paid to this woman.
The previous errors forgotten, the last German show closes on a festive note with a good selection of encores, including "Zoot Allures," "Packard Goose" and the doowop numbers. However, though it's not mentioned tonight, the guitar-shaped cake that the promoter brings onstage before the last number ("Crew Slut") may well have been the infamous one with Scott's name scraped off the icing. This incident set the fatal downward morale spiral into motion once again, and perhaps explains why few of the subsequent shows of the tour will match the heights that this three-night batch (or many of the best May shows) reached. Then again, perhaps it was only the absence of Dirk, Tom and Tommy that did it.
After listening to the first 45 minutes of this show, I was tempted to write "This show sucks," leave it at that, and send it off to Pat. Review done and over. But then, as I sat listening to the tape, with complete boredom starting to settle in, Frank does what he does so often in these '88 shows. He reaches into his bag of tricks, pulls out a juicy rabbit or two, and slightly redeems an otherwise forgettable show.
The beacon of light in this miserably dark tunnel turns out to be "Marqueson's Chicken," a personal favorite of mine and one of Frank's long ignored classics. After a parade of lifeless and overplayed songs starts things off in horrendous fashion [things are so bad early in the show that instead of "Pound for a Brown" after "City of Tiny Lites", we get "You are What You Is" (a la the '84 tour), without Ray White's end-of-song vocal gymnastics (obviously), nor anyone even trying to match them], "Marqueson's Chicken" comes roaring out of the speakers, causing this listener to sit up and finally say "Yeah." And it sounds good. The horns are powerful, adding an extra dimension to the already deliciously layered tune. The tune nears its peak with the arrival of the swaggering solo vamp, with the horns blowing full throttle now, when something horrible happens. The vamp ends. The swagger stops. Where are my delicious horns? Oh no! Frank has decided to put a whole new vamp here ("21"), interrupting the sweeping flow and canceling out the momentum of the song. Frank, what were you thinking? [Call me paranoid, but I think Pat, possibly with a little encouragement from Jon, prevented me from reviewing a Europe "Marqueson's" as long as he could. My view on this "21/Marqueson's" thing is definitely in the minority, and I think all were concerned at how I might slam it. Thanks for giving me the chance, Pat, and just so you all know, once you accept the fact that the segue sucks, the solo is actually pretty good. There, I admitted it.]
Despite the aformentioned problems, this seems to put a whole new energy into the show. While things from here on out are not outright great, they are pretty damn good. "Cruisin' for Burgers" is thunderous, with Chad and Scott providing Frank some of the heaviest support he would see this tour. "Big Swifty" contains several long and varied horn solos, and an interesting though short "Yo Mama" type Frank effort. No loops or rhythm section, just Frank working out some riffs over sparse keyboard accompaniment. The Secret Words finally work themselves into the show during "Stairway to Heaven", and while I can make no sense of what is going on, "whinge", "Scott's Face", and a series of random Frank outbursts provide some serious laughs in the closing numbers.
This show seems to be typical of many of the mid-to-late May '88 shows. No consistency throughout the show, but enough good moments to make the tape worth acquiring.
My CD (yes!) of this show starts in the middle of "Black Page," but luckily the solo is intact. This is one of the better solos I've heard over this (pretty boring, if you ask me) vamp. Parts of it sound almost composed, and yes, in a way it is. After "Who Needs The Peace Corps," we get the 47th Any Kind Of Pain of the tour. The solo starts out beautiful, but pretty soon FZ starts repeating himself, and the solo is kept rather short. This is one of the few versions that could be left off the AKOP solo CD some of us have requested. As it has so many times before, this song introduces the Secret Word: "I'll be back." Yes, we're in Austria, home of Arnold "Terminator" Schwarzenegger.
Then, just 15 minutes into the show we burst right into tonight's Monster Song: "Dupree's Paradise." And quite a strange monster it is, consisting of just two "elements": an alto sax solo (long and terrific - is it Albert?), and one long continous jam between the synclavier and various other parts of the orchestra. The best part is the FZ/Bruce duet, very beautiful; the rest of it is enjoyable too, but almost too abstract.
The segue into "Find Her Finer" is nice, and then it's time for the old 1980 fave "Pick Me, I'm Clean." And clean is just what FZ's guitar sound is - maybe that's why the 1988 versions never get even close to those of 1980. The solo vamp is very similar to "Inca Roads," and it spawns none of the energy it did 8 years earlier. Quite a disappointment. During Cosmik Debris, FZ tries out a new secret word, "hairpiece" - perhaps Mike's tour diaries will reveal the significance. [In the Society Pages interview mentioned above, FZ says that this is a Cheech and Chong movie reference. - PB] Ike plays a little harmless solo.
"Trouble Every Day" is one of the many treats of the European tour, with the bridge leading into the "Thirteen" vamp - can't understand why FZ chose to release the "American" version. Good solo too, but even better is Mike's little workout in "Penguin In Bondage" - very entertaining. "Hot Plate Heaven" is another reliable vehicle for good solos, especially towards the end of the tour. Here, it shows FZ in a playful mood - spontaneous and unpredictable, and Chad does a great job trying to follow him. He's not Vinnie, but the interplay between him, FZ and Scott had evolved immensely since 1981.
From one medley to another: the Green Genes/OSFA one. FZ still seems playful, interspersing "Mr. Green Genes" with tasty little guitar fills, which seems promising for the following guitar vehicle songs. And yes, the "Florentine Pogen" and "Andy" solos are good, but rather short. But the highlight of the medley - and probably of the show - is "Inca Roads," with a great solo from Frank and a fascinating sax solo: it must be a tenor sax (or is it baritone?), but what a register! For a while, Mr. Wing (?) reaches heights I thought only were possible with a piccolo flute - must be some special technique, or someone playing another instrument. I'd need to have an expert explain this to me. The audience is just as amazed as I am.
The show stays on a high level, with "Bamboozled By Love." This song has been a lottery throughout the tour - depending on FZ's inspiration, the outcome varies a lot. Tonight's a winner - FZ delivers 5 minutes (!) of high energy playing. Again, the audience agrees with me - hoo-ray! This is your typical, exemplary European audience, by the way: quietly listening, but cheering and applauding loudly when the band deserves it. As opposed to the American audiences, which usually keep a constant, high level of noise throughout the show...
Very well, the encores contain no surprises. "Stairway to Heaven" (or "Hairway To Steven," as Ike sings here [Maybe Scott or Mike took a Butthole Surfers tape on the tour - PB]), has a slightly different horn arrangement than we're used to - when did this change occur? "Bolero" and "Whipping Post" sound rather average tonight, and "Watermelon" rounds off the affair nicely.
This was a very nice listening experience. Great setlist, with two good medleys (the Trouble Penguin Hotel medley reached a new dimension in Europe) and good song choices in between. Not much secret word abuse and no real monstrous full band improvisations, but this is balanced out by the high quality of the solos, both from FZ and the other virtousi.
"I said I believe, that tomorrow we're going to Italy," Bobby Martin yelled at the end of "Whipping Post" yesterday, and how right he was. The Italian tours have a history of being troublesome: riots, indigestions, mosquitos etc., and tonight, it's the house lights. It seems they are on for at least the first 30 minutes of the show. FZ's first request comes during "Packard Goose," then "Love Of My Life" turns into a whole new song: "Turn Off The Lights," full of funny lyric mutations. Up 'til then, the show has been pretty bland, rather boring solos in "The Black Page" and "Zoot Allures." But "Turn Off The Lights" is great, and temporarily brings a new spirit to the band. "Filthy Habits" is brilliant, with a new added guitar harmony to the melody and a scary guitar solo.
Keneally's solo in "My Guitar" is an amazing stunt number, while FZ's "Willie The Pimp" solo is plainly dull. In the middle of "Montana," there's a loud cheer from the audience: the lights have been turned off, which leads to some funny lyric mutations. "City Of Tiny Lites" is pretty boring, "You Are What You Is" is very boring, so the old favourite "Marqueson's Chicken" is more than welcome. The theme sounds grandiose as always, and while I still think that the 21 vamp sounds out-of-place, it continues to spawn good solos. This is a nice, calm affair, almost sounding as if FZ was thinking through each lick before playing it.
"The Torture Never Stops" becomes the second Lyric Mutation Feast of the evening: apparently, a popcorn vendor is making his way through the audience. FZ's ridiculing of this guy is quite amusing, and as always after a funny Torture/Burt, the solo becomes spectacular. This one is an epic, with FZ exploring new grounds both melodically and rhythmically. Great - if only the back-up had been more inspired, but once again, the band has stuck in repeat mode.
"Stairway To Heaven" is drenched with not-so-subtle guitar fills from FZ (for example, he keeps playing the "Big Swifty" lick over the pompous pre-solo part) - Frank's fingers are itching to play, and the final solo ("Illinois Enema Bandit") is an inspired workout, which wakes memories of "Soup 'N Old Clothes." Funny secret word usage at the end of the song too ("Then the vendor might say: 'Why's nobody buying popcorn from me?'").
With a few exceptions, a pretty forgettable show. Between the highlights - the heavily lyric mutated numbers and the good guitar solos - there's not much to hang in the Christmas-tree, as we say in Sweden. No monster song, and *no* solos from the horn section!