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1982 Reviews

page four

July 2nd, 1982

This is the first in the series of Italian shows, FZ's first appearances in Italy since 1974, that concludes the '82 tour. As Jon notes in his review of 7/4 below, this is one of the most memorable sets of FZ shows ever, and most shows (including this one) are preserved on excellent sounding audience tapes.

This show includes no special events - no riots, no mosquitoes, or even no announcements about throwing things on stage, although FZ does include "the Italian army" in his band intros after Strictly Genteel. In fact, the setlist sums up this show well. This tape presents the '82 band at its peak capacity running through a standard set of medleys, with most performances barely distinguishable from the ones on CD, but with no disappointments. FZ mangles his guitar on each solo, with the exception of King Kong, where he starts off introspective before moving into some '82 Strat abuse.

Get 5/21, 6/29 and 7/3 first, and then flesh out your list with this and the other Italy tapes.


July 3rd, 1982

It's very difficult to write reviews when a tour is this good. Bad reviews are easier, there's always something new and exciting to pick on in, say, the Winter 76 or 84 tours. But when a tour has this much quality, especially something like the 1982 tour, which didn't have a single bad show in its final two weeks, it becomes a challenge to write new superlatives.

Take Balzano 1982. A truly classic show. Frank used much of it for various albums, and with good reason. Every note is dead on, every singer is hitting all the right notes, the solos are hot and Frank is on. It's a wonderful concert.

It's also a very typical concert. No secret words to speak of, no major setlist weirdness, no insane requests for Louie Louie. Just Frank, the band, and the music. And believe me, that's enough.

This is a must have concert, one of the absolute best of 1982. But not for any specific reasons. No must-have songs, or wacky band moments. The entire show, as a unit, speaks for itself. A man and his band playing at the heights of their powers, taking the audience to places unimaginable. No frills.


July 4th, 1982

Italy 1982 - without a doubt one of the strongest 2-week periods by any of FZ's bands. And thanks to A
Great Italian in the front row, almost all of the shows are captured on wonderful sounding recordings,
making this one of the most played sections of my tape collection, probably second only to Halloween '
78. Bologna is one of the very best sounding, and after a somewhat slow start, the concert turns out to be a real winner too. Excellent setlist, awesome musicianship, and some really high peaks. Read all about it

The opening Mammy Anthem is Frank's weakest solo of the concert, with a long quote from "La Donna
e mobile" that sounds very out-of-place. Bamboozled By Love is well-received by the crowd (perhaps a
theme Italians can identify with, if you pardon my stereotyping), and this solo is more up to normal FZ-
standard. It leads inevitably right to Young & Monde, where Steve Vai gets to play his first of three (!)
solos for the evening. And wow - what a solo! Starting out with some mellow lines, before getting more
and more acrobatic, but Stevie stays unusually restrained, and the end result is probably the best solo
I've heard him play on a Zappa stage. Frank begins his solo by seemingly mimicking Vai's opening lines.
Soon he starts moving in other directions, and delivers an excellent, powerful solo. An overall near-
perfect Y&M (save a messed-up return to the head), which would have done very well on YCDTOSA.

Tinseltown Rebellion brings us the obligatory "If you throw stuff..." interruption, and Cosmik Debris
gives us another Vai solo. And then it's time for the next near-perfect version of a 1982 favorite -
Drowning Witch. Apparently, this band never played it 100% right, but they must be pretty damn close
here. But what makes this version memorable is the solos - two absolute killers! The first one, over a
cool, loose jazz-comp, is Frank at his meanest, playing in The Mode From Hell. The contrast when he
suddenly throws in the jolly "La Donna E Mobile" melody again is wonderfully bizarre, and scary at the
same time. Chad and Scott keep playing at their very best for FZ's second solo, one of the best DW
solos I've heard. For 5 minutes, it keeps getting better and better, more and more majestic. The long,
sustained feedback note in the middle sent me into a state of trance. One of the highlights of the tour.

Side two of the tape simply kicks ass. A long suite of this band's most rocking numbers, interspersed
with two calmer songs, all played with massive confidence and energy. The solo in What's New In
Baltimore? is good, but much better is the manic jam that comes in The Black Page. Here it feels as if
Chad is hunting Frank, who doesn't have a chance to escape the highly inspired drummer. No matter
how far out and unpredictable Frank tries to be, Chad is there with the perfect reply. Awesome!

Stevie's Spanking doesn't break any new grounds, but is always a nice listen and brings some cool
riffing from the two guitar combatants. The parodically climactic ending means the end of the high-
energy section, but the show loses no momentum - enter King Kong! In my opinion, this classic has
been a little disappointing as a monster song this tour, but here we get a 18+ min version with some
really fine improvisations. Once again, the madness begins with a little new-agey section, where Bobby
plays French Horn (it just struck me that this part is vaguely reminiscent of "Nap Time"), while Tommy
Mars sneaks in some clever "La Donna e mobile" quotes in his and Ed's sweet backdrop. Next, a long
section of conducted improvisations, mixed with some speedy jazz. Scott takes an unusually prominent
role in this very successful jam. The whole thing is topped off with an FZ solo that left me breathless.
Frank seems to have ideas that would have sufficed for a 15 min solo, but he abandons each of them
very quickly, and the result is a very dense and restless - and terrific! - 5 minutes.

The encores are less spectacular, but Camarillo/Muffin is always nice to hear on this tour. The show-closing  Enema Bandit comes with a final great solo from Frank. Overall, an essential show. I don't think any of  FZ's combos were tighter than this band was during their final 2-3 weeks of touring. Their excellence and confidence shine through in all songs, raising them to higher grounds. Technically, Frank was probably at his definitive peak as a guitar player at this point, and on an inspired night as this, he would come up with some of his more memorable solos. I urge you to track this, and eventually all of the Italian shows, down.


July 5th, 1982

FZ and the boys deliver another winner on their fourth consecutive night onstage in Italy. The somewhat distorted sound on the tape fits the music, as the Night of the Deadly Pizza is one aggressive show. The audience adds to this by delivering a series of deafening cheers throughout the tape, some of them related to the music and some apparently not. (Maybe they were broadcasting the soccer match next to the stage.)

The Mammy Anthem starts the show with a settled, authoritative solo - aside from an FZ blues lick in the outro that doesn't quite fit, this doesn't have the miscues of most other versions. The Easy Meat solo is top-notch, as is RDNZL, though I don't like FZ's decision to halve the tempo on the intro. The first Drowning Witch solo doesn't have the outrageous loop that pushes the 7/3 version over the edge, but is still an impressive, angry solo, and the second is one of the best "hard-edged" second DW solos (as opposed to the languid ones such as Fulcanelli or St. Etienne), with a thematic quality that always helps.

Stinkfoot is a rare setlist surprise that leads into four standard songs. The tape flips during Teenage Wind and resumes in the middle of Tiny Lites solo, which is a shame for two reasons : first, there's either a missing song or an unusual segue here, and second, this is the most bizarre Tiny Lites solo I've heard outside of fall '80. The ending is also a complete riot, and gets a major audience response.

Pound For A Brown is also among the weirdest of '82, with Ed's solo including a "Marqueson's Chicken" rap and Tommy throwing in the Royal March from Aida and doing one of his half-talking solos, although the words aren't intelligible. (I hear "[blank] isn't with us anymore" - a Sheik Yerbouti reference?) As at Pistoia three nights later, FZ solos over the King Kong vamp in a lower key, but there's no Gershwin/St James Infirmary, just FZ mangling the mini-guitar. The conventional songs that follow (another twisted solo in I.E. Bandit) are a relief after this.

A night off follows, and then things get even weirder.


July 7th, 1982

The Mosquito show is notable for being one of the best Zappa audience recordings ever, and because FZ released several portions of it. However, after this first time listening to the whole show, it seems that this is not among the top Italy 82 shows, although it's still far beyond the overall FZ average.

FZ chose this night to bring out some of the less-often played items, but they aren't the best 82 numbers. An exception to this is Zoot Allures, the only non-Mammy Anthem opener in Italy. FZ is still in Mammy mode for his solo, though, quickly degenerating into furious noise. His band intros are amusing, but only a few bars into YAWYI he stops the show because of objects thrown on stage, which damages the momentum. A string of five vocal numbers (YAWYI/Mudd/Meek/Joe's/Pee) and another pause during Meek don't help. Marqueson's is cool, though, with a different vamp that resembles the new Drowning Witch first solo backing.

Fine Girl appears on YCDTOSA 1; Zomby Woof, though, is mostly different, with a good Willie The Pimp-esque solo as well as a slight train wreck at the end. King Kong is well-played, but aside from some band conducting at the end of Ed's solo, it's nothing you haven't heard before in 82. Sharleena offers FZ's commentary on some inside business involving girls, perhaps the same thing that became the topic of Man From Utopia the next night (cf. YCDTOSA 4). The Black Page solo appears intact on Guitar (except for 8 bars at the start and 4 bars of drum fills at the end) as Do Not Try This At Home - a great solo, but almost all of them were this year, and only Them Or Us and Which One Is It? strike me as true stand-outs. This one doesn't let up, though, and Chad's two high-tom fills alone justify the release.

The rest of the show is strong, but offers no special numbers except for a very odd take on Volare in the encores. FZ does a good Don Pardo impression introducing Illinois Enema Bandit.


July 8th, 1982

This late 82 show is fairly good in terms of musical talent and solo chops, but the main reason to get a hold of this is the secret wordage. See, the promoter hadn't paid the band lately, and Frank wanted to make sure everyone knew about that. Many, many mentions of promoters and money. Then there's the fabled girl who was locked in the bathroom story, as heard on YCDTOSA4 (a great deal of this show went onto various albums). Heck, Frank is in such a good mood he even makes fun of his own songs, as in Tiny Lites. "It's never over here! it's always over there!"

Aside from that, this is a very good July 82 concert, with nice sound (as most 82 Italy shows have) and some tasty musical treats. Highlights include Scott's basswork under Frank's solos in Drowning Witch, a heavy fretwork workout in Cleveland, Frank's Tiny Lites solo quoting "Summertime", and ALL of Pound for a Brown, with Ray, Tommy, Ed and Frank all giving their all, and the "It Ain't Necessarily the Saint James Infirmary" solo from Guitar.

Good music, great sound, lots of fun secret words. A keeper, go get it.


July 9th, 1982

This is one of those rare late-in-the-tour '82 shows where Frank has a hard time on guitar. His first several solo efforts are rather scattered affairs, and this, coupled with a somewhat standard set list, make for somewhat slow going early on. "Mammy Anthem" starts off strong but quickly turns pedestrian, and it is only Wackerman's inspired drum work that saves the second half of the solo. "RDNZL" is also rather pedestrian, though Wackerman steps up during Mars' solo and makes things a little more interesting. In fact, other than Wackerman, everyone sounds a little hesitant early on, with even the usually manic "Dancin' Fool" sounding staid and reserved.

"Advanced Romance", interestingly enough, attempts to bring energy back into the show. Frank turns in an excellent effort on guitar, flirting with Middle Eastern territory early on, and keeping things unpredictable throughout his solo. But a routine "Joe's Pee" brings the energy back down, and Frank's next two solos- "Marqueson's Chicken" and "Easy Meat"- are both short and somewhat throwaway efforts.

After a stretch of 5 straightforward songs ("Dead-> Shall-> Baltimore [good solo]-> Moggio-> Broken"), "Sinister Footwear" arrives with hopes of bringing some much needed energy to this show. The segue into the song is practically non-existent (several seconds of awkward silence after Frank's "I knew you'd be surprised!"), but the confident swagger of the opening motif overcomes this initial hesitancy. Thunes' makes his presence known for the first time here, and all looks good as we head into solo territory. Thankfully, Frank delivers, and well. Three minutes and eighteen seconds of pure, unrestrained metallic fury, spurned on by the skull smashing precision of the rhythm section. It is during moments like this I realize that no other guitar player touches as many ugly and potentially dangerous emotions as Frank, and does it with such overpowering confidence and authority. This is a truly awesome solo.

This is where Frank displays his gift for Set List Construction, for it is only after a song as powerful as "Sinister Footwear" can a song as cliched as "Stevie's Spanking" work as well as it does. This version- released on Stage IV- finds more metallic fury (though this of a much more comic nature) continuing to rain down upon us, and at this point in this show we absolutely love it. The "Tell Me You Love Me" that follows continues the insanity with another over the top performance.

"The Closer You Are" is the black sheep of this late in the show onslaught of metal activity, but oddly enough, it works, providing just enough contrast-and-relief before heading into the madness that is "King Kong". Bobby Martin goes first, with a relaxing and somewhat spacey French Horn solo. Ed Mann stays busy underneath, sprinkling Bobby's drawn out effort with just enough percussion and sound effects to keep things on edge. This duo eventually leads us into a surprising "Heil Caesar!" breakout, which results in approximately a minute of Frank-led chaos. Mars' and Thunes follow this with a danceable little jam, which finds Tommy working both the electric piano and synths to great effect. Frank finishes the song with a scattered effort on guitar. He cannot seem to find any one groove to work with, and instead spends much of his time jumping from style to style in an effort to get something going. There are some tasty moments here, but the end feeling is one of disappointment. "Sofa" closes the set, and from here on out things hit standard '82 territory. A couple '50's numbers, "Strictly Genteel" and then the Bandit (with a final, strong solo in tow) close things out.

This is not a great show, as the first 60 minutes or so fail to produce anything of interest other than "Advance Romance". "Sinister Footwear" injects some much needed energy into the show, and Frank and Company are able to capitalize on this for several songs. The sound on the tape is pretty clear, and while Frank fails to inspire consistently, the band at least performs to their abilities. Not an essential tape, but for the "Sinister Stevie Tell King" sequence, it may be worth tracking down.


July 14th, 1982

This is the last show of the 82 tour, and is fairly famous, because of the riots it spawned, causing an early ending. Despite this, the quality of the tape remains a solid B+ until the actual start of said riots. And it's an
excellent show musically, if a somewhat depressing way to end a tour.

The one thing you notice even with the good sound is that this crowd is wild. They are quite loud and boisterous all through Mammy Anthem, even in comparison to other Italy crowds. Mammy is, I believe, the version we get on YCDTOSA 1 - and for once seems to be unedited on there. As you can gather, the solo kicks butt.

The last live performance of RDNZL, which is still in its "half-tempo opening" stage - was this because it was too fast for the band to play, or because Frank was doing an experiment with tempo, a la 88 Inca Roads? Either way, I guess I prefer the fast version better. Frank gives us a hot solo, though, starting off as if he's going to do a quiet, powerful guitar masterpiece. Then he must think, "Reflective? Fuck that!", as it quickly goes into some amazing guitar mangling - and I don't mind, it's excellent guitar mangling. Tommy's solo is a typical 82 Mars - he usually quotes the theme of the song he's soloing in, and tosses in a classical music quote. He does both here.

Frank tries to accomplish similar guitar fury in Advance Romance, but the results are less successful. And when we hit Black Page #2, we begin to realize that metal fury Frank is making this a theme night. He does settle down towards the end of this cool solo - but not much.

When Cocaine Decisions hits, you know what's coming. The audience starts to get more and more unruly, the teargas grenades start to be shot, and the concert starts to self-destruct. The tape itself is still fairly listenable through about the first half of King Kong, and Steve Vai turns in a ripping effort for his final Zappa solo, but then the taper gives up and evacuates. We hear snatches of Marqueson's Chicken and Sofa, but that's it.

A slightly unsettling end to one of Frank's all-time best tours.