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1984 Reviews

page nine


December 17th, 1984  early

In another instance of setlist experimentation near the end of the tour, Stinkfoot opens this show. Perhaps all of the average shows this year have lowered my expectations, but it's great to have this here again - certainly FZ's best vocal opening number of all time. (Any competition? Maybe if Tush Tush Tush counts...)

Otherwise, this is a pleasant, straightforward show with standard songs in an unusual order. The only chances for guitar experimentation appear in Truck Driver Divorce, with a great double-time passage near the end (I haven't been noticing Scott much lately, but he comes out here), and Easy Meat, which yields a lazy, sprawling, spaced-out solo similar to the '88 versions of this song. The Evil Prince solo is especially good, with FZ coming up with a figure at one point that's melodic enough to make me wonder if it was a quote - funny, considering that he later quotes Dog Breath (in Sharleena) and Florentine Pogen (in Bamboozled). Bobby gets cuteness points for quoting It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas in Nig Biz.

"Hi-ho silver!" appears in some songs here, but it's not the all-out barrage familiar to YCDTOSA 3 fans yet. It's most prominent in the closer, I.E. Bandit, which also finds FZ playing one of those oddball, introspective solos that he pulled out from time to time in the 80's. (Listen to City Of Tiny Lites on YCDTOSA 5 - that sort of solo.) Stay tuned for show #2...



December 17th, 1984  late

This is the "Hi-ho silver!" show immortalized on YCDTOSA 3. If Bobby Brown and Keep It Greasy on the CD weren't enough for you, get this tape and you'll hear Ike unable to sing the second verse of Greasy (FZ snuck in another show for this bit on the CD), as well as Scott throwing in his two cents during the spots where he would ordinarily scream in Tinseltown Rebellion. And lots more, which wears pretty thin for this listener. Anyone out there attend this show? How was it?

Aside from that...this is one strange night, guitarwise. FZ enters his Zoot Allures solo with a high-pitched, ethereal passage, but it quickly dissolves into complete randomness with bizarre drum fills and sustained keyboard chords. Most of the other solos are equally odd. At times I found myself wishing that FZ would hunker down and play a "normal" solo, but there is a lot of intrguing interaction here. Perhaps the best is the second Drowning Witch solo, a raw, bluesy statement that brings back memories of 11/17/81. (Contrary to the liner notes, neither of tonight's solos are on YCDTOSA 3.)

The Trouble Every Day medley follows Bobby/Greasy, and, ironically, it seems like at last we have a straightforward solo, but FZ ends up quoting the entire closing passage of Echidna's Arf. (Jeez - didn't know that he could even play that.) Cleveland features the best Alan and Chad solos I've heard in a while, with Chad basing his solo around a melodic phrase (sounds like a quote from a famous classical piece I can't place - The Nutcracker?). FZ's solo comes in two parts. The first is based on a very strange vamp, with the loop, Scott's bass line and FZ's solo suggesting three different tonalities. This gets cut in the flip on my copy, unfortunately, and the second vamp features a calmer loop. Scott gets to take a solo here (great!), but FZ's solo is brief.

The second encore is Stick Together (w/solo) and Whipping Post. These two are bereft of "hi-ho silver"s or guitar weirdness (good solos, though), but the segue is the weirdest I've heard in '84. A crazy show.


December 18th, 1984  early

Short and to the point - that's the best way I can find to describe this show and its contents. It feels like the band was in a hurry at this early show, and when my tape ends, we've only gotten 75 minutes worth of music (I may be missing a second set of encores). The songs are played rapidly, often amazingly tight, the solos are kept short, and there's no time for a secret word.

Still, this is a very good show. "Short and to the point" is a concept which turns out to work
great on many of Frank's solos tonight. The first solo, in Truckdriver Divorce, provides the best example of this: possibly the shortest solo I've heard in this spot, but also one of the best of the tour. My Guitar brings another good, consise solo, while Willie The Pimp and Montana...umm, let's just say they prove that there are exceptions to every rule.

Next comes the statistical density part of the program, showcasing the precision the band has developed during their 5 months on the road. Alien Orifice has a cool jazz interlude with Alan, Scott and Chad and a pretty good solo. Tonight's Drowning Witch is the best version I've heard in a long time. The second solo, with some very creative fills from Chad, is probably the highlight of the show. Black Page is extremely tight, and most of it (minus the solo) can be heard on Stage 4. The solo is one of the few solos where FZ doesn't choose the to-the-point approach, and it turns out a disappointment.

Brown Moses/Evil Prince is one of my favourite combos from this tour. The latter is the Stage 4
version, again minus the solo, though this solo is really good too. The rest of the regular set consists of four of the most worn-out songs in the band's repertoire. They are spiced up by some typical 1984 humour - still no secret word, just various in-jokes plus Ike doing some strange, high-pitched vocal sounds.

The most notable thing to happen during the encores is when FZ recieves a note in No No Cherry. It features a request for Billy The Mountain, which Frank, Ike and Scott grant with a couple of lines ("A mountain is something...").

I like this tape. It doesn't reach any amazing highs, but there are no lows either...well, except Willie/Montana. Apart from a slight distortion problem, the sound is excellent.


December 18th, 1984  late

This seems to be a good show. I say "seem", because it sure ain't easy to tell - this is the worst sounding tape from the 1984 tour, which prevents us from getting anything but a rough picture of what's going on. The bass and drums sounds like some kind of thunder in the background, the keys, guitars and vocals are
just a blur, and the only thing that's really discernable from the rest is Frank's guitar.

Two noteworthy things happen during the first part of the show. First, Enema Bandit, _The_ Encore Number, turns up as song #2 in the set, tricking us to believe we're experiencing the shortest FZ concert in history. Second, we get three more or less non-vamp solos within a short period of time, in Penguin, Green Hotel and Marqueson's Chicken. The PIB solo must be one of the weirdest ever, and can be heard on DHBIM?, as can the very good Green Hotel solo. Marqueson's Chicken seems really good, but the sound makes it impossible to really enjoy it.

City Of Tiny Lights keeps surprising me with another long, solid solo, including a long Hall Of The Mountain King quote. Next remarkable thing to happen, and the hightlight of the show is - surprise! - Let's Go To Customs. Alan starts out his solo really good, but soon falls into the old cliché trap. The first loop FZ triggers for his solo doesn't spawn much of interest, but the second one sure does. What we get is Canadian Customs, one of the gems on Guitar, if you ask me. At this time (after the tape flip), the sound has improved noticably, up to a solid C+, making this a rather pleasant listening experience.

The first encore number is an on-request Dong Work For Yuda, a song which has a habit of popping up once per tour in the 80s. The Whippin' Post solo, FZ's last in Canada ever, is really good, with a King Kong quote and lots of nasty feedback

I won't make a definitive judgement on the concert, but it's easy to make one on the tape: it sucks. Get the other 110 1984 shows first!


December 21st, 1984

Frank's second to last show of the 1984 tour is not the musical extravaganza we have come to expect from the waning days of his tours (see October '78, the end of March '79, December '80 and '81, July '82). He fails to whip out any monumental guitar solos, and does not really surprise us with any outrageous song selections. This penultimate show is, however, quite a good time. The sound is EXCELLENT!! The '84 band has never sounded better (I prefer the sound on this tape over the too-sterile sound of DHBIM) with Zavod in particular benefiting from this mix. While the performance may not be all that impressive, it is obvious from the get go that the band is having a very good time, and this shows in some inspired run-throughs of some by now stale song choices.

The opening "Stick Together" is again one of the highlights of the show, even though it lacks a guitar solo this time around. The band is having massive monitor problems at the beginning of the show, so Frank has the boys jam out the outro while the problems are addressed. Zavod goes crazy during this part, and churns out some funky keyboard playing that reveals a sorely underused side of him. The second song "My Guitar" is stopped mid-way through by Frank thanks to an audience member who is apparently standing right in front of the stage. Frank keeps asking him to sit down, but since he doesn't, Frank stops the song and says, "You're a Shmuck! Sit down!", which elicits a huge cheer from the crowd. Frank would later stop "Montana" (which thankfully does NOT contain a solo tonight) to let this same Shmuck, who has returned to the front of the stage, scream pointlessly into the mic.

As the show continues, various Secret Words pop up inexplicably, including lawn, soup, biscuit, ground loop, and, of course, shmuck. Frank's guitar playing is right on tonight, and seems to know exactly where to go with each solo. Each solo is effortlessly melodic, creating a sense of comfort as we trust that Frank will take us some place special with each solo. Unfortunately, he does not allow himself to stretch out at all, and all the solos are concluded before Frank can create anything truly magical. Nonetheless, the two standouts would have to be "Penguin in Bondage"- which sounds like some deranged Vai solo- and "Hot Plate Heaven"- which is deliciously tuneful.

The encores deliver the most interesting series of tunes. "In France" (despite being way overplayed as of late) rocks as hard as ever, as does "Marqueson's Chicken" which finds Frank delivering one of the more satsifying '84 MC-solos. We are still in the abandoned-the-vamp mode, but Frank's ferociousness overcomes this flaw. "Dinah-Moe Humm" bounces along nicely thanks to some over-the-top bass playing, while the concluding "Whippin' Post" delivers your standard, show closing hysteria.

This is not a great show, but it is definitely a very enjoyable listen.


December 23rd, 1984

The 1984 tour finishes with a solid performance, about half of which appears on various CDs. For completists, though, the show is one of few that's easy to find from both audience and soundboard sources (with the soundboard missing the last two songs).

The show starts with Stick Together, with an amusing intro. ("Almost everything sticks to Alan Zavod...nothing ever sticks to Bobby Martin...," etc.) Then it's on to Teenage Wind/Truck Driver Divorce, with a fairly short, rocking solo, as most of them are tonight, and then the My Guitar to Brown Moses sequence familiar from YCDTOSA 4. The last ever Drowning Witch follows that, a decent version, with FZ's first solo being the highlight.

Drowning Witch, Black Page and the Tinseltown/Trouble/Penguin/Hotel sequence is the longest unreleased stretch, but all are performed in a familiar fashion, with few secret words but good solos. The Penguin solo disappoints (too short), but Green Hotel makes up for it, with the rhythm section getting into some nice patterns behind FZ. Baltimore is another one mostly on CD, but FZ used the chorus from a different show, preventing buyers from hearing these interjections : "Battlestar Galactica...what a cheap piece of shit!"

The final '84 model Cleveland offers another good FZ solo over an upbeat, new wave-ish vamp. Too bad FZ didn't find room for that one on any release. The one surprise of the evening comes with Dweezil's appearance in the encores. This is the first instance of Dweezil and FZ soloing together (though not Dweezil's first onstage appearance), and Dweezil's metal tricks spur on his father similar to the way Vai did - nice to hear these performances again, and in unedited form.

So, a good show to wrap up the tour. However, I can't avoid being amused by Thunes's comment, on the newsgroup, that after this tour he went to live in NYC and did his best to forget about the entire thing. After finishing this leg of the review project, I doubt I'll be checking out any '84 tapes again for some time.