February 1988 Reviews

February 23, 1988 Poughkeepsie

One of the less exciting shows of the U.S. tour in this reporter's opinion - not bad, but it doesn't seem to get anywhere. I sat through the whole first tape waiting for the show to kick off before I looked at the setlist and realized that this was part of the problem. Not a single monster song, and the rest of the selection could have been more exciting. A couple of Jimmy Swaggart jokes, but FZ doesn't seem to be in his most humorous mood tonight.

The closest we get to a climax is the OSFA-medley near the beginning. "Florentine Pogen" and "Andy" have short, intense solos, while "Inca Roads" showcases FZ's more laid back side - a nice little solo with a wah-wah like effect. Paul Carmen's sax solo is brilliant as always, but way too short.

"Black Napkins" feels kind of sleepy tonight, with rather uninspired trumpet and sax solos, and FZ's solo lasts for just a few bars. "Let's Move To Cleveland" becomes the most daring number for tonight. Excellent dynamic and flexible drumming by Chad, while Scott plays it cool and FZ gets really out there in places.

We get a surprise - the '88 premiere of "Tinseltown Rebellion." Disappointingly, not much has happened since 1984, and this song was just played once more this tour. "Trouble Every Day" and "Penguin In Bondage" are the Swaggart versions from BBYNHIYL - pretty good versions, especially "Penguin," which has one of the better solos of the tour. "Hot Plate Heaven" is unfortunately missing from my tape.

Finally we get "Stairway To Heaven," without any extra guitar from FZ, and the OCLT Medley - quite an unusual show closer. The last guitar solo of the show in "Oh No" becomes the most interesting - a lengthy exercise where FZ displays his dynamics, ranging from frenzy to pure melodicism, and with quotes from "Lumpy Gravy" and "Watermelon" thrown in. The support from the rhythm section is excellent. So, a good ending to an OK show - but where were "Pound For A Brown" and "King Kong" when you needed them?

- JN

[Interesting to read this alongside Keneally's comments on the show in his diary entry. - PB]

February 25, 1988 Pittsburgh

The first set of this show is standard, but notable since it is the last of the many Feb '88 sets that include the Republican Medley. From this point on, FZ opts for a more eclectic stew of oldies and instrumentals; only three subsequent shows (3/5, 4/19 and 5/4) include the complete medley, though the new songs still turn up regularly in piecemeal fashion. Not much special happens in tonight's rendition, though "Dickie's" benefits from some Swaggart jokes. (Speaking of "Dickie's" - listening to every version of the song consecutively, I've noticed that the band almost always fails to stay in synch after the fast "Midnight Sun" lick in the "cocksucker by proxy" line. A new insight into what truly was "difficult" in FZ's music.)

Set two gets off to a better start with the "Torture" medley, including the Swaggart version of "Lonesome Cowboy Burt." One of the finest Secret Word moments of the tour, this appears almost intact on Best Band. The "Torture" solos have settled into a more sedate mode by now, but FZ still gets some spiky sounds out of his semi-acoustic guitar setup.

"King Kong" easily steals the show - one of the hottest of the tour if not all time. The solos are excellent all around, featuring Ed Mann's rap about "Ladies Night" at the Holiday Inn and a Bruce Fowler solo over the late-70's "Diseases Of The Band" 9/8 riff. After a fierce Wackerman break, FZ tops everything with a harrowing solo over one of the spaciest loops ever, with some deftly shifting harmonic support from Thunes. This solo sounds like the middle ground between "Republicans" and "Fire And Chains," and is another one that's high on my "should have been released" list. The rest of the show returns to normal territory, although the "Andy"/"Inca Roads" first encore is a nice touch.

- PB

I saw both the shows at Pittsburgh's Syria Mosque (also not with us anymore, now a parking lot). I had a feeling this was going to be the last tour - it had been four years, and the liners notes to Does Humor Belong In Music? referred to "Whipping Post" as "the last song of the last show of the last tour." So I considered 1988 a huge bonus, especially since FZ doubled back to Pittsburgh to play another show a couple weeks after the first time around. (Funny, I don't remember any other artist doing that!)

- Keenan Funk

February 26, 1988 Detroit

What to say about this show. The first set is almost painful. Despite an interesting second song "When the Lie's So Big" (it sounds much better alone than in the midst of the Republican Medley), and some occasional vocal ad-libs, the first hour of this show does nothing more than bore. Even the usually enjoyable "A" solos ("Alien Orifice" and "Any Kind of Pain") fail to ignite any interest.

The second set is not much better, though it does offer up an excellent "Pound for a Brown" and a tight "What's New in Baltimore." The "Pound for the Brown" is the source for the last seven minutes of the MAJNH "King Kong", including the "burp" jam, Thunes' solo, and some all around inspired improvisation. Considering how weak the remainder of the show is, the amount of energy the band manages to work up for this Monster performance is nothing short of amazing. The "Overplayed in '84" medley ("More Penguin Hotel") closes the set, failing to produce any worthwhile solos despite Frank's lengthy efforts.

The encore offers up an enjoyable "Stairway to Heaven" (where Frank rips off his best licks of the night), and the majestic "Strictly Genteel" closer. The problem is, you have to sit through a "Promiscuous" before reaching the finale, which, in hindsight, at least makes us all feel great knowing that it would never be played again.

- JG

February 27, 1988 Detroit

Any show that starts off with four songs from the '73/'74 era Mothers has got to be good. This show is good. No, let me take that back- this show transcends the description good. This show is great. Heck, this show is damn near perfect.

The ball gets rolling with the always-successful show opening "Stinkfoot" (this song establishes such an upbeat mood, something "The Black Page" never does), followed by a rare second song "Andy." Frank's "Inca Roads" solo does not match the intensity of these early proceedings, but the horn solo makes up for that, as does the positively beautiful "Uncle Remus." [Thank you, Frank, for resurrecting this irresistible little ditty.] The first set peaks during "Outside Now", but the high energy and good spirits persist throughout the set, and make some routine song choices enjoyable.

The second set is flawless. The opening "Eat That Question-> Black Napkins" immediately reestablishes the energy from the first set, with Frank bringing back memories of mid-70's guitar freak-outs with his inspired "Black Napkins" solo. The band locks into a serious groove for "Find Her Finer" and "Who Needs the Peace Corps?" before Frank unleashes a truly surprising "Norwegian Wood", complete with original lyrics. The insanity carries into "King Kong", which unleashes monster performances from Fowler, Keneally, Martin (with his "Frank doesn't give me anything to sing in the show" solo), Wackerman, and Papa Frank, who turns out an ugly, feedback laden loops solo, sans any Thunes or Wackerman support (though Mann provides some tasty percussive accompaniment). Finally, the whole set peaks with a beautifully realized version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", again with the original Beatles' lyrics.

The encores appear to be pretty standard by looking at the set list, but proving that he is still the master of the guitar domain, Frank whips out three of his best solos of the tour. "City of Tiny Lites," "Pound for a Brown" (which is simply a guitar solo vehicle here), and yes, even "Crew Slut," provide lengthy and challenging solos. The "City of Tiny Lites" solo, in particular, goes on and on and on, but not once does it approach boredom. Frank even quotes "Smoke on the Water" in his "Crew Slut" outing, a small hint at just how much fun he was having with these encores. Without a doubt, this Saturday night in Michigan saw Frank's best show of the tour- at least up to this date, and possibly for the whole US outing. (NOTE- Not one written-for-'88 song is played during this show. Coincidence?)

- JG

February 28, 1988 Detroit

While this show does not contain performances as mind-blowing as the previous night's outing, this final show in Troy is a satisfying affair thanks to some nice song choices, and some all-around aggressive playing on Frank's part.

The first set is a long one, giving Frank seven chances to shut up and play his guitar. He never manages to produce anything that should be deemed a classic, but does attack his solos with an aggressiveness that is not all that common on this tour. This has a wonderful effect on an otherwise lackluster "Torture Never Stops," and manages to keep things interesting in the "Overplayed in '84 and again in '88" "More Penguin Hotel" medley. Sadly, the single monster song of the night ("Eric Dolphy") is way too short, though Ed Mann and the Synclavier do sneak in a nifty little jam.

The second set is excellent, thanks mainly to the two solos which bookend this series of songs. Frank's solo in "Heavy Duty Judy" is exactly that- heavy duty- with Frank digging in almost immediately and forcing the rhythm section into a much looser and less restrictive vamp. The "Oh No" solo that concludes the set sees Frank continue to explore this spot to its fullest, producing one diverse and satisfying solo. Apart from these, we get another beautiful "Any Kind of Pain" creation, along with the premiere of the "Texas Motel Medley". It is as funny as always, though the lyrics would evolve over the course of the next few shows.

Finally, the encores, despite containing "Dancin' Fool," conclude the show on the right note. Frank whips out one final blasphemy during "Whipping Post," treats us to the always enjoyable "I Am the Walrus," and then dishes up his most emotional creation, "Watermelon in Easter Hay." No, the solo is not anything special, but with a tune like this, who cares?

- JG

I was at the Feb. 28th show - Fogz's comments are right on; the "Oh No" solo is one of the most amazing things I have experienced!

My brother and I arrived at the Royal Oak Theatre well before the show started. We roamed around outside just checking the place out when we heard music coming from one of the side doors. It appeared to be an exit for the side of the stage. The music was so clear, I thought it was funny that they would be playing a Beatles tape, it sounded perfect! There were no lyrics, just music, it stopped...restarted...then I realized it was the band! Then there were a few dog barks...to the music...we hung out by that door for the longest time, just listening....I hoped someone would open it, but I knew that wouldn't happen, it was one of those emergency exit doors with no handles on the outside that is never used. But it is an experience I will never forget, being a part of one of Zappa's sound checks, even if it was from the outside. I still have the ticket stub..SEC: Left, ROW: O, SEAT: 9. It was a great show! I didn't realize it was the preimer of the Texas Motel Medely, a truly historic event!

- Mike Beattie

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