March 11th, 1979
Another exceptional opening vamp is supplied with what we know as Outside Now - over 6 minute long solo. Nice way to start a show. You can tell this arena has pretty bad acoustics, this is a pretty echoey tape.
Again, a very standard set punctuated by a few highlites including Warren's solo in Cosmik ("Alvin Lee Ladies and Gentlemen") and also a Santana reference during the lyrics. City of Tiny Lites is normal and Easy Meat contains a nice FZ solo. Andy is always a highlite and Inca Roads has Frank exlporing around, stretching and prolably composing or musing, a great solo. My tape ends after Wet T-Shirt Nite.
March 12th, 1979
So there, one month into the tour. A month throughout which we, the demanding reviewers, have insistently kept begging for more surprises, more great guitar vehicles and more monster songs. And then, when we least expect it, master Frank throws us a couple of tasty bones: three little surprises, all of which are classic FZ solo vehicles. No monster songs though, but as one of the big rock acts said (don't remember which), two out of three ain't bad.
First, Outside Now, in what might be its premiere performance. About a week later, it would become the (sorely needed) new solo vamp for another song, but here it gets the role as show opener - a tough task for a newcomer, but it does an excellent job. FZ shows his melancholic side, making his guitar gently weep and squeal forth a beautiful solo.
The following half-hour is free from surprises. City Of Tiny Lights keeps spawning solos that are better than previous year, but still far from great - you can really hear that FZ is tired of the vamp. But then, near the end of Dancin' Fool, the crowd is going apeshit and Frank has to stop the show to prevent people from getting crushed. There's a long break - the band even leaves the stage for a while, but out of this mess comes something good: the band enters the stage with a new "show opener". And possibly in an attempt to calm the crowd, we get Watermelon In Easter Hay, a really nice version which throws us into an even better Easy Meat. The solo has FZ shifting between two modes, one where he keeps hammering major chords in various rhythms, and one where he plays Eastern-inspired melodies. The outcome is great.
Andy has a short but very intense solo, while Inca Roads is the exact opposite. FZ stretches out, just like we want him to, and once again shows that he just wouldn't run out of new ideas for his Inca solos this year. This is not one of the very best - it doesn't flow as nicely together as it sometimes would - but parts of it are pure magic, and as a whole, it's nothing short of excellent.
A little disappointment when FZ cuts the set after The Meek, thereby depriving us of the Sophisticate/T-Shirt/Pee suite. And the first encore is short, just Peaches En Regalia. But all this is forgiven by the excellent choice of second encore. Yes folks, it's another of those Why-wasn't-it-played-every-night? songs, Black Napkins! It's not really as great as you would hope, but still a very worthy version. I'm sure that, had it been played more regularly, we would've gotten many, many memorable solos.
A short but nice show. Though the sound is crappy, it's worth getting (it might fit on a 100 min tape if you're lucky) for the three rare guitar vehicles, and for Easy Meat & Inca Roads.
I can think of three reasons to have this show: (a) you're a
completist, (b) you're a Black Napkins fanatic who wants to hear how it sounds on this
tour, and (c) you want to hear every single Inca Roads from this tour. Yes, this is one of
the two 1979 concerts with Black Napkins - like yesterday, it's an encore, though placed
at the beginning of side A. Probably the taper just flipped the tape after side B was
filled, thus recording BN over the opening solo. Oh well, it's a very good version,
and the song should have stayed in
This show contains the best "Inca Roads" this band, and possibly any band, has ever performed. Yes, I know that Gaffney and Lantz and Naurin and Buzby and even myself have made this claim elsewhere in these reviews, but I ask them (and myself) this? Do those other versions contain a slowly building Zappa solo that climaxes in a frenzied fury of notes, but which does not herald the end of the solo section? Do those other versions find Zappa continuing his solo despite having reached an obvious climax, delving into heavily chorded territories reminiscent of '75 and '76's "Zoot Allures"? Do those other versions then find Zappa dipping into a "Filthy Habits"-like dirge that quickly escalates into a silly, almost chaotic free-for-all with Frank doing his best Townsend imitation by windmilling (well, that's what it sounds like) a series of Byrds-like high end chords? Do those other versions contain a Peter Wolf keyboard solo immediately following Frank's solo, turning this performance from being simply outrageous into being an outright Monster song? And finally, do those other versions find the standard guitar solo section climaxing in a Mars/Colaiuta battle that brings back and then eclipses memories of '78's "Little House I Used to Live In"? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you have an impressive little "Inca Roads" on your hands. But if you answer no to any of them, and my bet is that you will, then you cannot rightly claim that any other version of "Inca Roads" can top this Monster performance.
That being said, I must say that it sucks that the sound on this tape is as poor as it is. There are two versions of this show ciculating- a B- sounding audience tape that cuts during "For the Young Sophisticate", and a much better sounding soundboard that starts during "Florentine Pogen". Obviously, despite the poorer sound, I recommend the audience tape. While "Inca Roads" is the obvious highlight, the rest of the show is pretty good, and quite enjoyable if you can handle the sound. "Treacherous Cretins" is quite long, and slowly builds to one of the more frenzied climaxes this song will receive. "City of Tiny Lites" finds Frank continuing to improve on this song's solo. While in "Easy Meat", Frank plays quite beautifully, creating a bouncy, almost dancing sound that is not too common for this vamp.
There are a number of ad-libbed comments and lyrics that hint at a possible Secret Word, but due to the poor sound, I was unable to make them out. Also, the audience tape does not include the closing "Watermelon in Easter Hay". As unfortunate as this is, I honestly did not mind because the "Inca Roads" more than satisfied me. Obviously, your best bet would be to track down both the audience and soundboard recordings, because if Frank carries his energy through to the end of the show, the "Watermelon" should be amazing.
March 19th, 1979
Now, when you think of the 1979 tour, a few things come to mind. That setlist, Frank's guitar, the rarities of For the Young Sophisticate and Wet T-Shirt Nite. But rarely do you think of the humor. Most of the shows are straightforward affairs, and this band had fewer personalities than, say, the 84 band.
This show, however, is an exception. You want secret words? We got secret words! 'And on guitar we have...' is the biggest, but we also get several mentions of the $500 belt buckle Thomas Nordeg bought, and an oddly pronounced 'I like you!', probably from the groupie of the previous night. Frank riffs on there all through the show, introducing every member of the band as being 'on guitar' (well, Arthur is 'on larger guitar'...^_^).
Best of all, since Frank and the band are in such a good mood, the musical content of this show rises exponentially. The opening solo (not He Used to Cut the Grass, as it tends to be labeled) is quite good, with Frank taking a laid-back, relaxed approach he would use throughout the evening. City of Tiny Lites has what is one of Denny's best *ever* slide solos, a solo that is so incredible that Frank has no chance of topping it...until he reaches down and starts playing THOSE CHORDS. Yes, Filthy Habits rears its ugly head, with the band following right along behind. For once, CoTL is essential.
Both Easy Meat and Inca Roads contain wonderfully long, expressive FZ solos, Inca's having a middle eastern flavor in it that reminded me of the Sheik Yerbouti tango at times.
We also have a few problems with the audience here, as we have at many of Frank's best concerts. He stops Dead Girls of London to yell at people for throwing beer cans on the stage. But even this cannot ruin the mood of this show. It is a truly happy, bubbly, infectious show to listen to.
The encores are fairly standard, with a solo-less Montana, and some amusing Tommy plays cool riffs while Frank tunes up before Dirty Love. Frank thanks the audience for being on guitar for the evening, and wishes them good night. (Yes, I know Jon's setlist lists 3 more songs, but I don't have the ending solo, if there was one, and the chances of this very non-vocal oriented band doing Love of My Life and Nite Owl are slim. Frank seemed to definitively end the concert with Dirty Love, at least to my ears.)
All this, *and* it's got A- sound! An essential show to have in your collection, and perhaps the funniest of the entire 79 tour.
--SG, on guitar
This show doesn't get off to a very auspicious start. The solo is
available as a separate SBD of its own, but it's really not all that hot. IMHO, Frank
wasn't as consistent with the Persona non Grata vamp as with the others. There follows a
typical 79 first half, with the inaudibility of Warren's guitar and the huge cut in the
middle not helping matters.
After a few undocumented nights, this tape begins the final stretch of the tour. There
are a few changes to the set, mostly positive. Unfortunately, FZ seems to have lost
inspiration on Persona Non Grata by now. Like the following night, tonight's solo is a
pale shadow of the fall '78 versions. The first half hour of this show, with the standard
list and mediocre sound, is slow going.
This show gets off to a dubious start with the sleepiest introductory licks of Persona Non Grata ever heard. FZ's solo picks up energy eventually, with some wah-wah wailing and percussive exchanges, but it is still only a shadow of the blockbuster fall '78 outings. Based on this beginning alone, it's easy to conclude that the combination of repetitive setlists and a gruelling itinerary has reduced this potentially great band to a nonet of zombies.
Fortunately, the rest of the show goes some distance to right this. There's a mixup in the "Little Deuce Coupe" section of Brown Shoes that leads to an amusing mini-Secret Word for the evening, and Warren turns out the most energetic Cosmik Debris solo that this reviewer has heard in a long time; similarly, Denny starts to sound like Roger Daltrey in Tryin' To Grow A Chin. FZ is messing with Tiny Lites and Easy Meat, ditching the restrictive solo vamps in favor of more open-ended jams; neither of them are great (yet - stay tuned for 3/31), but give him credit for trying.
The next point of interest comes, predictably, with Inca Roads. Here, Vinnie opts for a slow, heavy beat, and though I'd prefer the Inca solos to soar like the London versions rather than plod, FZ thrashes for five minutes or so like a dinosaur in a tarpit. A few standard songs later, FZ intros King Kong.
After typical Ed, Peter, Tommy and Vinnie solos, we arrive at the principle reason to get this tape. FZ begins strumming, as he would in previous tours when he had a notion to tease a work in progress, and though that's not the case here, his chords build to a vamp for a majestic set-closing solo, with especially strong backing from Warren. Encores are Montana and Dirty Love, with FZ interrupting the latter when a fan throws an egg onstage.
March 27th, 1979 early
My incomplete tape cuts in during Ain't Got No Heart and enters in the middle of a typical set list for this tour, very tight and not much variance.
But there's always those improvs sections to look out for and late in the tour, City Of Tiny Lites was often a vehicle for those. Tonight offers an 8 minute Outside Now in the center section, and it smokes. Easy Meat also has a terrific solo. Frank intros Jumbo Go Away on Denny's behalf as being dedicated to the "woman with the large head that likes to cram her head between his legs in dark areas".
Andy is really nice as is Inca Roads, my notes simply say incredible. As the tour went on, Frank did stick in a few different tunes. The crowd favorite Titties n Beer features the Bronx accent of Warren as the devil and Vinnie and band get to do the Black Page again.
The tour has now reached its second peak, just about as high as the Hammersmith Odeon
run 5 weeks
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