June 1988 Reviews

June 9, 1988 Genoa

One day in June '99, I found this in my e-mail. He will be receiving a tape.
Hi Pat,
This is Nando, the Lonesome Cowboy. I discovered your page today, of course I checked the accuracy of the information about the last concert of the last tour. There is a guy in England who has a page on Natural Phenomena Named After Frank Zappa. It contains some more information about the song Frank dedicated to me and our jellyfish, a link to that might be relevant. I do not have the tape of the concert and I cannot forget Frank's voice when he addresses me "Nando, you hot little marine biologist" and then the Torture reprise begins. That is not in the CD release. I saw Frank in Turin, and he asked me if I would be in Genova. He grinned when I said yes. So he was planning this thing for some time. I saw him the day after the show, at Portofino. He called that concert: the jellyfish concert. I dedicated a jellyfish to him, he dedicated his very last concert to me. I would like to have a tape of it. And then there is a real tape in the vault. From an egocentric point of view it is obvious that, for me, that is the most important concert that Frank ever gave. Anyway it is important also for non-Nando people, it is the last r&r concert of FZ! It might deserve a CD on his own.
Thanks for the job you have made and you are making.
Hope to hear from you
Ferdinando Boero
Dipartimento di Biologia
Università di Lecce
73100 Lecce

Note : Foggy G contacted me a few weeks back to suggest that I ask all of the '88 reviewers to give their perspectives on the last concert of the last FZ tour. Each of these reviews was written without knowledge of the others and there has been minimal editing. - PB

The tape I have of this final Frank Zappa concert is rather echoey, but very lo-gen and extremely listenable, and the "Black Page" indicates that the band is dead on and ready to nail it. FZ's solo is snakey and really melodic; his solos were really beginning to come back to full compositional potential at this point in the tour. It's impossible to imagine what the planned fall 1988 tour might have yielded - new material, new "old" material and who knows what else. OK, no more sentiment.

Band intros follow and included is one "Patrick Germanini" between Walt and Bruce Fowler. Still have never heard anything else about who that may have been, it doesn't seem like Frank is kidding. And later during "Big Swifty there is a guest solo by "Bobby O. Blemis" or maybe "Bobby O'Blemis."

Highlights of the show start during "Marqueson's Chicken" with the "21" middle section that we'll maybe someday officially hear as the title cut on "TranceFusion" (from another '88 show) - this middle section also appeared during the closing credits of "AAAFNRA", the video documentary about the "Yellow Shark". Really nice and the ambience on the audience tape adds in a nice way. The '88 arrangement sounds terrific.

"Cruising For Burgers" sounds great too. So many things about this band had been grooved and many of the difficult arrangements just roll. I'm getting sentimental again.

Bob Rice get the royal treatment during "Who Needs the Peace Corps" including Keneally quoting FZ from the Towson, Maryland (3/23/88) enema bag stage incident (FZ -3/23/88-/MK "what a schmucky thing to do") and the background chatter after a Book of Indian Lore (everyone: "BobRiceBobRiceBobRice").

"Outside Now" follows and FZ's guitar just careens all around this sports arena. I'm guessing that he hated the acoustics but it fits this performance of the song perfectly from the audience perspective. Or at least the audience tape perspective.

There is a big /cut during the second horn solo during "Dupree's Paradise" that /cuts into the end of "Find Her Finer" so it's unsure to me what was missed. "Big Swifty" follows so it is possible that no monster section was lost on tape during "Dupree's...". Bruce takes a typically surreal solo and things start to twist and froog. The rhythm changes to a boogie back-beat and Bobby doing a nice piano-scat solo. Immediately segue the mysterious FZ intro'd "Bobby O'Blemis" harmonica solo which rocks out and, more than likely, it's Keneally dueling it out on guitar midway through with the harmonica player...followed by a big Keneally solo. If this is Ike, I stand corrected but it is a very accurate, if not simplistic and straight rock solo. What is probably Ike, segues this section with a nice guitar solo. Then the two of them, most definitely Ike and Mike, or is that Mike and Ike ;) solo together allowing Scott to take a big bass solo. Nice to hear Scott take such an authoritative solo - the horns don't seem to help but seem conducted, Ed Mann jumps into a vibes solo and the horn section responds with a really interesting blend of randomness along with some nice synclavier patches by Ed and drum fills by Chad. Segue Chad a jazzed drum "solo" accompanied by semi-random synclavier craziness. FZ kicks in a pre-recorded guitar-loop that is real cool with a nice sax solo over the top of it. Chad joins in and it is full fledged jam. Real nice - maybe Paul Carmen soloing here. Things disjoint again via synclavier and lead into a psuedo-techno-reggae beat which melds back into the closing bridge of "Big Swifty". The song ends and more unusual fills lead into a tight "Rhymin Man" and a cool version of "Sinister Footwear" with several nice solos. "City of Tiny Lights" somehow segues with a real nice FZ solo.

"The Torture Never Stops" follows and leads into the next major highlight section and features the secret words "pizza", "Nando" and "jellyfish" coming to the fore. The "pizza" incident refers to Tommy Mars' bad mushroom pizza experience in '82, "Nando" refers to the finder of the new jellyfish, and the "jellyfish" see "Nando." Frank yells "abondanza" during the Bonanza quote which leads into "Lonesome Cowboy 'Nando'" in recognition of Nando the jellyfish scientist. See The David Ocker Internet Interview for more about this. The boys just barely hold it together because of their new found lyric mutations. "Nando, you hot little marine biologist" leads into a big solo by... not FZ!! More like Paul Carmen on sax. Very jazzed and then a very 'after dinner smoker' solo by Frank and the Torture reprise including: "Are they mushrooms... or anchovies"... into Ravel's "Bolero" #zapped# by the 88 band. "Whipping Post" and "The Illinois Enema Bandit" closing the show - Bobby thought the band was going into "I Am The Walrus" because of his closing refrain of "I said I need to know if we are going to make a segue" and Frank says "In that case" and leads Bobby into "I Am The Walrus," and the rest of the band then goes into "..Enema Bandit," which includes a cool bluesy solo by Frank. More "pizza" and "jellyfish" jokes closed the show; my tape cuts right before the true ending so I don't know how the show ended or what Frank's closing remarks were. But he would be heard from again...

- BL

It's the end of the road - FZ's last rock band concert ever. And given the relatively weak nature of the past couple of shows, it's a bit of a surprise - an extremely pleasant one - that this show qualifies right up there with the best shows of the tour. The three main ingredients: a very strong setlist, one of the most monstrous Monsters of the tour and a lyric mutation orgy.

"Marqueson's Chicken" is the first number of interest. The much-debated 21-part sounds almost xenochronic tonight - it's hard to imagine that the players are actually playing the same song, but it creates an interesting enviroment for FZ's solo nevertheless. "Cruising for Burgers" once again proves to be one of the most reliable vehicles for good solo, with a strong, driving rhythm section. In "Who Needs The Peace Corps," we get a little glimpse of the onstage humour that's been lacking for the past fortnight, when Mike tells that Bob Rice has stolen his indian hairdress. "What a schmucky thing to do!"

Another thing I've been missing for the last couple of shows is FZ's more passionate, dramatic soloing. It makes a glorious return in "Outside Now," with the best solo of the show so far. "Dupree's Paradise" is not a Monster tonight, but does an excellent job as vehicle for two great horn solos, and a nice appetizer for tonight's main course: "Big Swifty." An incredible monster, just as unpredictable as we want it: after the more routine trombone and synclavier jamming, Chad, Scott and Bobby wanders into rarely visited territories: funk! It's great to hear Thunes/Whackerman playing as the dynamic duo they are, despite the rifts - here they create a cool vamp, which inspires Bobby to whip out perhaps his best solo of the tour. After this, it's time for that Italian harmonica player again, and it's off into straight R&R territory - after the guest we a long duel between the guitar players. This is where I begin to fear one of those anticlimactic segues into "Cosmik Debris," but it's as if FZ never wants to end this final Monster song. We get a cool Chad/Scott duet, a percussion solo, a drum solo, loops - developing into a long, jazzy sax solo, and finally a strange little reggae jam. At almost 23 minutes, I'm pretty sure this is the longest single "song" of the tour.

And as if this weren't enough, it's soon time for my '88 fave: "Sinister Footwear." The solos are good, but short. At this stage, the band has really come into shape and makes even "City Of Tiny Lites" a memorable affair. Really good solo. The only thing that's missing now is some humour and voila - "Torture Never Stops (Pizza Version)" and "Lonesome Cowboy Nando" are born! "All pizzas from Genoa be cursed!" - FZ's references to the dreaded mushroom pizza from 1982 are very amusing, and we all know the Nando story from YCDTOSA #6. So let's see, will the "Funny- Burt-implicates-good-Torture-solo" thesis hold true once again? You bet - we get a very nice, calm solo, with a cool reoccuring whammy bar-induced theme that almost gives it a feeling of being composed. (Hopefully we will know this solo as "After Dinner Smoker" in the future.)

Now, we all wish that the encores, the very last songs of the very last tour, would be as spectacular as the preceeding hour, and not the routine affair we've grown used to. But as Mick Jagger once said: you can't always get what you want. The "Whipping Post" and "Enema Bandit" solos aren't bad, but the word Anticlimax inevitably springs to mind. Frank, why couldn't you have kicked off a loop instead and just jammed for the last 15 minutes?

Anyway, this is an excellent show - definitely a worthy conclusion to FZ's rock touring career. Unfortunately, my tape sounds rather crappy - if someone has a copy that's not made from the back of the hall, contact me!

- JN

While Frank's final concert tour unfortunately does not go out with a bang, at least it does not shuffle out with a whimper. Having sustained quite a peak during the latter days of April and early days of May, the '88 band failed to accomplish much of interest in the last several weeks of tour, save for a trio of shows in late May. Things looked bad for Frank's final outing, especially considering the anemic performances of early June. But somehow, someway, Frank manages to pull it all together one last time, and sends us all home with a concert that, well, at least does not suck.

At the very least, one has to admit that the set list for Frank's final show is quite impressive, especially considering that this is the '88 tour and all. "Marqueson's Chicken", "Cruisin' for Burgers", "Outside Now", "Dupree's Paradise", "Big Swifty", "Sinister Footwear", and a quite funny "Torture Medley" all populate the musical landscape. These are easily some of Frank's best solo vehicles for this past tour, and while no instant classics are found here, Frank does manage to keep things interesting for the duration of the show. A special mention will be made of "Outside Now" and "City of Tiny Lites", however, both of which contain possibly their best respective solos of the tour, and both containing some insane Wackerman support. The final Monster song of the tour, "Big Swifty", is nice and long, but has that patchwork feel that many of the U.S. monsters had. Lots of solos, but no continuity between them. Interestingly enough, Thunes gets a solo spot here, and turns out what may be the best solo of this monster. Memories of O'Hearn's funky '77/'78 solos come flooding back.

Two interesting, though not all that important notes-> One, after the closing theme of "Big Swifty", nothing happens. There are about twenty seconds of horn spurts, Wackerman fills, and keyboard atmospherics as the band tries to figure out where to go next. Two, prior to "Bolero", Chad plays the opening fill to "Peaches", only to have it cut short by Frank. Two rather obvious mistakes in one show. I guess things really were falling apart.

So that's it. Frank's final tour ends with a satisfying but nowhere near great show. I guess it is fitting, as those are the exact words I would use to rate this tour.

- JG

This show, which turned out to be the last of the tour, is a hot and cold affair. Some numbers suffer from the same malaise that seems to have dogged most of the Italy shows, while others recapture the energy of the best '88 performances. Though the negatives accumulated to spell an end to the band after this show, the positive factors manage to come through in the end onstage.

The first third or so of the set is low on energy, perhaps betraying the band's internal tensions - even heavy hitters such as "Marqueson's Chicken" and "Cruising For Burgers" fail to excel. Keneally helps change this by introducing some humor directed at Bob Rice in his "Peace Corps" monologue. Perhaps this provoked FZ's attention, because the next number, "Outside Now," produces a simply majestic solo.

There are still some bugs, however. In "Dupree's Paradise" Chad takes an especially wild drum fill during Kurt's frenetic solo and ends up out of sync with Scott on the vamp for a few bars - finally, Chad simply stops playing for a moment and then rejoins the bassist. Also, in the later "Sinister Footwear," the bass seems to be practically absent for the first few bars, although this might have more to do with the indistinct sound quality on the tape.

"Big Swifty," though, is a very worthy final Monster. After a typical Bruce solo, the jam shifts gears and moves into a new, blues/funk-oriented terrain. Over this vamp, we get what must be the coolest keyboard solo Robert Martin ever laid down in this band - it would have made George Duke proud. Special guest Fabio Treves (sp?) follows with a harmonica solo reminiscent of Craig "Twister" Stewart at Santa Monica '81 (perhaps it's just that all harmonica players sound the same to me), followed by a guitar duel (Ike joined by Mike, or perhaps the other way around). Thunes even gets a brief break, before the later solos return to the typical murky Monster territory. Strangely, after the outro, we get a few seconds of nothing but random noises, before the next song appears.

"City Of Tiny Lites" offers a very hot solo, and then it's time for the last, great burst of '88 energy with the Torture medley. The "jellyfish"/"pizza" jokes show FZ in a very good mood. Then, after a horn solo over the vamp (not done since Oslo), we get another of FZ's most deep, melancholy solos of the year, if not all time. It's remarkable that the same vamp that once yielded the furious "Rat Tomago" solo here produces something so refined and meditative. This solo alone should make anyone anticipate the appearance of Trance Fusion.

Of course, the encores are all routine choices. However, FZ distinguishes this set of songs with another of his more focused and powerful "Illinois Enema Bandit" solos. After that, the singers take the song out with some more jellyfish/pizza joking, FZ says "Good night," and, a band meeting or two later, both the wild, sometimes frustrating and often brilliant '88 band and FZ's equally wild, frustrating and brilliant rock touring career came to an end.

- PB

Back to the June '88 setlists page.
Back to the main FZ '88 page.