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Winter '78 Reviews

page three


February 19th, 1978  early

There's only a fragment of this show on tape, starting at the beginning of the Yo Mama solo. Good solo, not so good sound. I did hear Frank continuing to play around with Fernando (as he would in the late show). The audience shouts out for Muffin Man, and a surprised Frank tosses in Camarillo as well. The
sound degenerates to about a C- by then, sadly. Good filler for 2/10/78.

--SG

February 23rd, 1978

By this time in the tour, the expectations created by this band have become nothing short of challenging, and after listening to a dozen plus shows in less than a month, I find myself ready to be disappointed.  Yet despite the same old songs in the same old order, Frank and Company manage to whip up another satisfying treat, raising the expectation level for future shows yet another notch.

"The Torture Never Stops" heralds the arrival of the first noteworthy event (though I really do enjoy the "Dancin-> Peaches" combo- this pairing brings out the strengths of the former piece).  Frank's solo is huge, with strong, well-thought out phrases delivering the maximum punch with the minimum amount of energy.  O'Hearn and Bozzio maintain a rather steady beat throughout, slowly building in intensity and adding their inspired flourishes at exactly the right moments.  While this solo does not really build to any orgasmic climax (as say, the Stage One performance does), it maintains an aggressive attack that never loses the attention of the listener.  A keeper.  

The "City of Tiny Lites" solo is still nothing, though Patrick sounds great.  "Baby Snakes" finds Belew coming in too soon with the "Suck my pee-pee towards the end" line, which elicits an very emphatic "WHICH STANDS FOR" from Frank when the appropriate time comes.  Nothing all that great, but somewhat amusing.  Then, we get, THE POUND…

As soon as we enter solo territory, you can tell things are going to be a little bit different.   The vamp is slightly middle-eastern, and Mars' short opening solo flirts with the SY Tango theme.  When Wolf's big moment comes, Frank brings the boys on down behind him to give Petey some acapella time, before Patrick enters the picture and funks things up.  Wolf takes off over this vamp, delivering one of the funkier keyboard solos of the winter.  After this lengthy solo, Frank leads the band through a free-form jam reminiscent of the quieter, Synclavier jams of the '88 tour.  Mars' chordal blankets create an eerie, Pink Floyd-ish landscape, over which Ed noodles away.  This eventually leads to a chaotic Mystery Word section, heavy on "cornholes" and "Cognac".  This goes on for several minutes, with some nice O'Hearn fills and jumpy Mann riffs keeping things interesting. 

When it finally ends, Frank is obviously quite pleased with the results as he then indulges in a looong "I Have Been in You" intro.  And then a looooong "I Have Been In You" middle rant.  I mean this sucker is loooong.  I am sure it would have been really amusing at the beginning of the tour (it does have some truly funny moments), but by this point, I am personally tired of this monologue.  The audience loves it though. "Flakes" delivers another stellar Belew solo, leading us into Monster Song #2.     

This "King Kong" performance also reminds me of some of the quieter improvisations of the '88 tour.  Mann takes a lengthy solo to start things off, before Frank once again leads the band through some subtle and atmospheric "jams".  The audience is heavily involved in this, yelling and cheering and apparently being conducted by Frank along with the band. Mars' uses his "horn section" keyboards effectively here, sounding very much like the "balloon chords" that the '88 horn section would play. O'Hearn does some more noodling and Bozzio gets a little crazy, but for the most part, this is a rather calm and reflective outing.  Nice.  

[And then I discover that Tape #2 does NOT contain the "Wild Love" that abruptly gets cut at this point.  No, Tape #2 contains the last 45 minutes of another Winter '78 show.  Shucks.  So hopefully another will be chiming in soon with the remainder of the review]

--JG

February 24th, 1978

Bootlegged as "Steaming Jukebox", this is one of the more wide-spread (at least the first 90 min) shows from this tour. And despite a rather muffled sound, it gives a good representation of what this tour was about. The average setlist, and a typically well-performed combination of rocking songs and really great jams.

And so, we get an unsurprising first 30 minutes. You've heard it before: The Torture Never Stops solo is very good, while the City Of Tiny Lights solo isn't. "Torture" shows a bass player who's grown a bit tired of just playing A minor for 6 minutes and starts taking liberties. He invents new lines and chord progressions, adding some new flavour to the jam.

Tonight's biggest surprise - a positive one - is Pound For A Brown. Most of the tour, it's been a rather predictable keyboard solo vehicle, hardly reaching Monster-status. But tonight, we get a true Monster, starting off pretty normal with a Peter Wolf solo, then going into "a capella mode" with short piano and synth solos. Here, the jam takes a somewhat weird turn - my guess is that FZ is conducting the two keyboard players. The outcome sounds rather random and "pointillistic" and was probably more exciting live. Zappa changes his cues, and the band starts making mouth noises and shouting words instead. This part of the jam sounds more like something from King Kong, but soon enough, it's back to keyboard jamming. And this is great, Peter takes another synth solo, while O'Hearn and Bozzio delivers some cool funk/disco.

FZ chooses the long, boutique girl intro to I Have Been In You. The audience is wild about it, as well as the lyrics to the song. Flakes is quite nice as always, but pales in comparision to King Kong. Like Pound, this song has started reaching a new dimension of Monstrousness towards the end of the tour. The adventures begin with a lengthy FZ solo over the fast, this-tour-only vamp, which is being played with more energy than ever tonight. Excellent! Ed takes over, and plays one of his finest solos of the tour. After some more FZ conducted business, there's an edit into the concluding solos - FZ and the keyboard players trading licks.

An even more annoying edit (tape flip) comes in Wild Love, and all we get of the improvisations is the end of Adrian's solo. This is soon forgotten though, as we get one of the greatest Yo Mamas of the tour. Part of this solo have infact been released, as "A Solo From Heidelberg" on a Guitar World cassette. And it's a shame FZ never put it on a record - this is a real epic, competing with the Sheik Yerbouti solo (which incidentally was played the night after). Starting off majestic, with Tommy or Peter mimicing FZ's licks on the piano. Opus II is when Bozzio joins in on a jumpy R&R vamp, this part is simply fabulous. In Opus III, FZ keeps playing rock licks, unaccompanied, and we even get a 4th opus, when the rest of the band joins in again. They even make a tight return to the head of the song (wonder if this is why Tommy shouts "Yeah!" here?), and concludes the highlight of the evening.

A little disappointment when Titties 'n Beer closes the set. What happened to Black Page, Jones Crusher and most importantly: Little House I Used To Live In? The encores don't offer much in compensation, but this version of Watermelon is quite good. Tempo-wise, it has come close to the "definitive" incarnations, and FZ has grown pretty comfortable with the vamp.

Definitely a show worth getting. Try finding a non-bootleg copy of the entire show if you can!

--JN

February 25th, 1978

The quality of this soundboard (or at least the first 90 minutes) is excellent, even better than 2/15/78. I suspect that this alone will be enough to recommend the tape to many collectores. Unlike Berlin, though, this is not one of the best nights of the tour.

The show gets off to a solid start, but there's some hubbub in the audience during Torture and this seems to distract FZ. He turns in a typical fine solo on this song (with some berzerk Bozzio fills), but botches the transition into the outro. (Listening to tapes through the years, I've noticed that for all his rhythmic skill, FZ had a tendency to lose track of where "one" was - cf. Halloween '81 Black Napkins for the most glaring example.) He also throws in an unrelated guitar riff during the Torture coda and the following Chin, with some laughter from the band, but while I'd usually welcome this sort of tomfoolery, here I find myself wishing they'd get serious.

This sets the pattern for most of the other songs, all of which are good but few of which are anywhere near the highest standard for this tour. A possible exception is King Kong, which features strong FZ and Tommy solos as well as White Person. Certainly the Sheik Yerbouti Yo Mama solo (if it is indeed from this show) would be enough to redeem the tape, but, sadly, it isn't here - instead, the third side picks up at the encores (highlighted by another germinal Watermelon), with sound quality inferior to the first two sides.

Discographical puzzles - White Person appears on YCDTOSA 6, but Torture definitely isn't the YCDTOSA 1 version. Were there two shows on this night, or might it be lurking on some other tape?

--PB

February 26th, 1998

Well as this tour is winding down, the band is very loose and Adrian appears to be the butt of a few jokes thanks to his announcement of accepting a position with David Bowie after the end of the tour.

Some funny intros by Frank open the show (Adrian Belew on surgical jelly) and a very typical opening ensues. Frank rips a Torture solo and adds in a little Smoke on the Water with the band following in right before returning to the final verse.

The highlites of the show begin during Pound For a Brown and nice solos by Ed, Peter and Tommy. The usual slot for Frank to do a little vocal conducting turns into a speech by Patrick about a Journey to an undeciperhable planet with a reverend at the helm who has a unquenchable desert dry thirst so he wraps his succulent lips around Adrain Belew's throbbing gristle while Adrian has a rubber shirt wrapped around his "bird-cage" like chest. More with a rubber glove and some jelly. Weird! Baghdad make another appearance as a secret word. After a really long Belgian Boutique Girl intro to I Have Been In You, Frank completely loses it, laughing his head off and skipping a few line to the song with the band plodding onward without him. A real nice solo by Adrian during Flakes - again I hope we see an entire Flakes from this band someday.

King Kong is electrifying as usual, the band plays the jazz/fuzoid vamp that has become familiar at this stage of the tour and Frank responds nicely. Tommy then has a go at it and does quite well too throwing bits of Inca Roads in at the end. Another White Person-ish segue of improvs ensues..

The rest of this review is by Jay Jones (busby@primenet.com) as he had my part 2 on loan with some other tapes - take it away Jay!

Here it comes. My review of the remaining songs of brussels 2/26/78: the tape picks up near the end of the improv section of King Kong. FZ conducts the band to make sounds and vocal noises on cue, then Patrick lays down a funky bass line in four-four which the audience claps along with. Over this clappable rhythm the band makes more bizarre noises etc. Then comes the little bell or whatever that signals in Wild Love. The lyrics are changed to these:

"Many well dressed negroes and several caucasions are fighting quite a bit"

{I kid you not} then where Frank would normally sing ye-ah, he sings "ne-groes". Then the orchestra type section comes in with Tommy singing the vocal melody. Then comes the fast instrumental section with the melody being played by Tommy and Peter with some Belew whammys for good measure. Then a Very abrupt pronounced 3 chord vamp {sort of a double time "wind cries mary} which the Wonderful Rhino plays a killer solo over.

After Adrian's solo, Yo' Mama starts right up. Here is where I'm so glad I get to review this part of the tape. Adrian comes in late with his harmony vocal,he starts singing at the line..."and cook for you". frank changes the lyrics to these:

"You ain't really made for throwing things on the stage.
Ain't much hope for a nerd like you.
'Cause if I give you a chance, you forget to come in where you're supposed to sing.
Maybe you should stay with your DAVID,
He can do your laundry and play with you."

I have read where adrian mentioned frank changing the lyrics and singing maybe you should stay with your DAVID, and adrian made it sound like it was good natured ribbing. Maybe it was, but to my ears Frank sounded kind of pissed off. Just how mad was Frank concerning Adrian's leaving to join David Bowie? [The first time I heard this, Frank did indeed sound pissed. So I want back and listened again....and again...and again....and still, Frank does indeed sound pissed- Fogz]

Oh yeah, Frank plays some blistering guitar with synthesizers providing sound effects along with some intricate piano runs, then the band comes in and Frank continues soloing,then back to the vocals {no surprises this time} The band wanders offstage and wanders back for Dinah Moe Humm. Standard version. No surprises {although I was still so blown away by the lyric changes in Yo' Mama that I probably wouldn't have noticed anyway.

-Bill Lantz and Jay Jones

February 28th, 1978

For those of you (like me) who enjoy using live tapes to trace the construction of FZ's albums, this show may hold some interest since it's the source of the basic tracks for Dancin' Fool, Baby Snakes, Wild Love and the intro and end of Yo Mama.  Otherwise, it demonstrates that special occasions (such as this being the last night of the tour) don't always lead to special shows - though this is a good one.    

Setlist checkpoints : Torture solo?  Good (with some typically strong O'Hearn and Bozzio backing), but not outstanding by the tour's standards.  Pound?  It has some solid funk/fusion jamming from Ed, Peter and Tommy interspersed with a few bits of White Person weirdness.  King Kong?  This second monster starts off uncharacteristically with an FZ solo (quite a good one) over a two-chord vamp, before Tommy (and maybe Peter, I'm not sure) gets another turn.  Yo Mama?  Good, but Bozzio's entrance in the solo tonight comes with a slow martial beat that's unique, but ultimately anticlimactic.    

Other deviations from the norm?  FZ gets off one good quote in the I Have Been In You intro : "In the romantic portion of most shows, the lead guitarist plays his favorite Donovan licks.  In the romantic portion of this show, the lead guitarist takes a pair of ladies' underpants and talks to you about them."  And in Wild Love, Adrian (or whoever does the first line) sings "Many well-dressed Negroes and several Caucasians are fighting quite a bit" (?!?).    

So, a good night, but not quite in the same league as some of the epics from earlier in the month.  And the London crowd's questionable taste in encores leads to the night (and the tour) ending with Disco Boy.  See you in the fall (by which time much would have changed).

--PB

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