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1979 Reviews

page two

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.


March 13th, 1979

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
the setlist.

The only real highlight is Inca Roads, in yet another breathtaking version. Frank builds his solo very slowly and methodically, focusing on creating a beautiful melody, but also with several sidetracks into the aggressive. Vinnie is unusually careful in the background.

The rest of the recording has very little to offer, besides a pretty good solo in Easy Meat. The sound is flat and boring, and the only deviation is when Denny screams "one more time for the world" in Spanish (I think). Get this tape only if you're desperate after more Inca Roads, that's my advice.


March 14th, 1979

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

March 21st, 1979

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.

The cut is a particular shame as it comes back into the middle of a NASTY sounding Tiny Lites solo, with Frank drenching on the feedback. It really sounds great - I wonder what Denny did to inspire Frank to these heights? He stays inspired too, because after Dancin' Fool we go into Easy Meat, a highlight of the 79 tour. The vamp may have plodded, but Frank frequently rose above it; he does so here, with a nice, lyrical solo that sounds very different from the low heavy metal EM solos from a month ago. In addition, I think Ike sings this song better here than any other tour.

Jumbo Go Away has a long intro for the servicemen in the audience, as Frank gives them the background on the 'unnamed band member' and the groupie. (There's no 'No, Denny, don't hurt me!' to identify him yet.)

After a nice Andy we get another big highlight. I can't verify for sure if the solo in Inca Roads is Toad-o-Line/On the Bus note for note, but if not it's damn close. Frank toys with the Toto riff for a while, creating an atypical Inca solo that really sounds fresh and dynamic. Anyone verify if this is indeed the JG solo?

After that it's a standard 79 closing, not that that's entirely bad. The rarities in particular are energetic and well-played, with Frank 'introducing' Wet T-Shirt Nite (Why wasn't this song every performed again?).

Not a truly magnificent show, but Easy Meat and Inca Roads make this tape worth replaying.


March 25th, 1979

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.

FZ namechecks Mahavishnu drummer Michael Walden in Cosmik Debris, and Denny screams a lot in Chin, but it's in FZ's City Of Tiny Lites solo where the show comes to life. This is the first Outside Now jam in circulation, with FZ mulling over a phrase he also played a lot in 1980 which ended up in The Radio Is Broken. This is also the debut of the "vampless" Easy Meat, and possibly the best of this last week of '79, despite the lack of Catholic Girls. FZ goes over the edge on guitar and the solo ends with a complete meltdown, as well as offering a few full-blown Hold The Line quotes.

Inca Roads stretches out tonight, with FZ soloing for 10 minutes, sounding similar to the SUAPYG solos though not quite as focused, before letting Ed (!) have a turn. The band seems rather animated by now, especially Tommy, who throws in some scatting in the 7/4 post-solo melody, as well as other miscellaneous licks. FZ throws in Conehead after The Meek, with a weak vocal section (one or two skipped verses), and lets Tommy lead off, as tribute or punishment. Peter follows, and then Arthur, who tears it up and gets some great interaction - one of the best sideman solos of this tour.

The encores start with Bamboozled, and then "another new song - So Garage." This is an instrumental Joe's jam, not very exciting, but with novelty value and some crisp '79 style FZ licks, before Dirty Love closes the night.

Casual collectors can skip this one, but it has its moments.


March 26th, 1979

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.


March 27th, 1979

The tour has now reached its second peak, just about as high as the Hammersmith Odeon run 5 weeks
earlier. The solos are long, the playing is energetic, and the setlists are more varied than before. This
tape suffers from a muffled sound, but is still well worth having for a couple of reasons.

The opening is a typical, great Persona Non Grata solo. Several chunks of it sounded familiar, but it's not
the He Used To Cut The Grass Solo, as I first suspected. Brown Shoes has some snide remarks from
Frank to some guys in the audience, and after the song, there's a break - apparently some guys were
sitting on the roof to the PA, which pissed FZ off (one of these guys, I'm told, is one of the more famous
German fanatics, but I'm not allowed to say who).

City Of Tiny Lights has reached a new dimension with the Outside Now solo (great!), and Pound For A
Brown makes a glorious comeback after a 3-week vacation. Yay - this is the kind of monster we've been
missing for most of the tour! Starting out like a typical '78 version with a good solo by Ed, followed by
Tommy on a variety of keyboards, including some funky clavinet. Then, one of those rare, excellent
Arthur solos, and he throws in some cool Lobster Girl licks. Vinnie gives some great support, and soon
Warren joins in for a long, good jam. Next, Peter's turn, and he surprises everyone by starting playing
Jimi's "Who Knows?". The others catch up quickly, and we get a long jam based on the song -

Despite only bringing one solo, Inca Roads almost qualifies as a monster song too. Frank's guitar
extravaganza is nothing short of spectacular - almost 11 minutes (!) and spanning over all thinkable
moods and styles, although a surprisingly large share is in the laid-back vein. Even Vinnie stays quite
relaxed through most of the solo. The segue into Yellow Snow is unique, and the suite is really good
tonight, with possibly the fastest versions of St. Alphonzo/Father O'blivion ever. The show ands in
typical fashion with Montana and Dirty Love, both in fast, high-energy versions.


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