I just want to preface this bland meandering post by saying, music is the greatest thing in existance. I dare ANYONE to challenge this. And Zappa made the greatest music ever heard by these ears. He died too late in the last century for me to ever hear a live show, (let alone fail an audition for his band) so this is the next best thing for me.
Lining up to get in, and one of the venue men is going up and down the line, informing everyone that Napolean wasn't let across the border,(note, edit here, upon first hearing Napolean was not at the show, it was my girlfriend who conjectured that maybe he didn't make it actoss the border, she cleared that up for me, no hummingbird employee ever implied that. the first guy just didn't specify the family issue thing.) and that we could get a refund before we entered the venue, by the time we got to the doors of the venue, signs were posted saying there was a family emergency, before handing in our tickets, we were informed once again that we could get a refund only now, not after entering, (what doofus would do such a thing! I guess the two seats beside me, the rest of the house was packed, I assumed it was a complete sellout. Surrounding me were parents with young kids LOVING the zappa. that was so fucking great to see. So the video, I must say, not the best Dupree's I've ever heard, but loved watching it nonetheless. I love that Bruce tries to blow his spit valve in the middle of his solo, and it devolves into him taking apart his instrument in amped up dismay. That was fucking hilarious. Just another of the many moments that make watching a Frank Zappa concert hilarious in every little detail. The pan down to his shoes got a big laugh. That was so fucking cool, just the timing of it and everything in relation to the music, perfect comedic placement on the cameraman's part, bravo!
So enter show, Imaginary Diseases was actually more intense than Frank's version. Wowzers. Next Dweezil informs us of Napolean's absence due to unexpected family problems, to which someone very loudly proclaimed "Ya drug problems" No response was made, I won't go on, but it does seem strange he's back the next night in Chicago, Sucks that the borders between the US and Canada are WAY more tight ass than borders in Europe, but oh well, happens all the time to people (musician's and non) sometimes people without even any criminal record are denied access forcing them to forfeit contracts time and money. I've heard many a sad story, but I digress, back to the show. Dweezil mentioned we were the first audience to be on their feet right from the start, but I thought I read someone say that about one of the european shows? can't remember which.
Stinkfoot was an amazing version, it's not my favorite song, (well the end section on ' kills me, and it always made me sad this version was never played live) but this one was ON. Joe's voice was perfect to sub for Frank's, and to do on short notice while still kicking ass on drums, fuckedyfuck! Dweezil just destroyed those miniruns in between lines.
Next comes the first hilghlight for me, King Kong. Great arrangement, (the original mothers take, specifically from Ahead of their time is my fave, but choosing the eighties reggae is my second. The audience noises was overplayed a little, but I did do the dumb thing. What I have to say now is, Dweezil's band conducting was AWESOME! the stop and start on a dime changes in tempo and feel made the whole solo section kickass! continuously entertaining, each change and listening to the soloists reaction, kudos to dweez on that. other people mentioned they thought the band conducting was stale, but this night it was fucking ripe! The first solo was the rhythm guitarist, and he TOTALLY SMOKED!!!!! Brilliant solo by the percussionist as well, a major gripe I had was that he only got that one solo the whole night!!!!! that was sad for me, but I guess you have to consider, playing in a zappa band is like soloing nonstop for a percussionist (in the classical sense of a solo of course). Aaron whipped out some wicked shit, amond which vocoder singing a song, I don't know what it's name is, or what the lyrics are but you'd all remember it something sort of like 'live life for the city" then he inserted toronto. So to backtrack a little, I was sad not to hear the early stuff with this band, as I LOVE the interpretations of these songs frank was playing in the mid 70's, especially Nappy's take on them. So to that extent I am glad they opted not to play them that night, because those renditions were born for nappy. So next we get DETYS into St. Alphonzo which was a little jarring at first, but really, Nanook was always a little boring to me in concert (Kindergartner's of London being the exception of course!) so I think it was ultimately a great choice. I think this section was my girlfriends favorite part of the night. It was fantabulous, could have done with a Rollo, but oh well. So next came Inca Roads, and once again, fate smiled upon me. Listening to the Jammy performance, I have to say Napolean is just not suited for that song, there's a reason Frank got George to sing it. That song needs a crisp, clear voice, and Sheila Fucking delievered. I was sobbing as she started singing. Now usually I can keep it together till frank hits those heaven notes, (you know the ones on Helsinki! OSFA too, but to a lesser extent due to the edits) . But it is the honest, naieve (as in just not having that information!) plea of "Did a vehicle come from somewhere out there" mixed with music that may as well be from another galaxy, that just sets me off. I can't handle that song, it is the greatest thing ever. I try not to listen to it in public! But Sheila nailed it, better than some George Duke versions. I hope they let her take over on vocals for that song for the rest of the tour. As the instrumental section kicked in, note for note perfection as far as I could tell, my girlfriend started to sob watching how the music was physically moving me, knowing what this song meant to me. As the solo section started, the whole band chilled right the fuck down, which I took to mean we were in for a long building solo, which we were. No playing a guitar solo on inca roads is a fucking bold move to make. I would never in my entire life even attempt it, but he bravely stepped into the fray, and well, didn't quite get there until just the very end with a beutiful quick flourish. Not that it was a bad solo, but given franks work in that section is my favorite thing on this planet, time and time again, nobody that I know of could even stand a chance, there's a magic in franks melodies that only he had, but I digress, the song progressed into a lengthy keys solo, where he expertly weaved themes from the song through his improv, from where I was sitting, (floor, right hand side) the keys were very muddy though, one of the only problems with sound I had with the show, but it could have just been my position. it was hard to hear what he was playing distinctly, so it's impact on me I'm sure could have been much better. other than that the sound was clear, and for these ears, the PERFECT volume. that's a tough line to tread! too loud and it's a painful experience, too quiet and you're forced to be engaged in your neighbours lame conversing. and on that note, I have to say, best crowd I've ever experienced. I wasn't annoyed in the least, they shut the fuck up during the songs, and went apeshit in between. a little tooo much clapping and cheering, making a lot of things inaudible said from stage, but overall, I didn't want to kill anyone, and at shows I almost always do! my neighbours were great family folk, watching the father daughter team in front of me continuosly stealing the binoculurs from each other was a treat! So exit the key solo, through the end of the song, on ruth, and bang, end of set one. Wow, I thought, amazing, but seemed kind of short, oh well, don't forget the exciting extended encore at the end of the show, Chunga's, Eat that Question, Zomby!!!! the show must go on!!!!!!
So from the nice man next to me with two boys, and from conversation overheard during setbreak, it appeared the audience was here largely for Bozzio, of course, every drummer I've ever known listens to zappa, how could you not! So as Bozzio hit the stage, for a second I had to rub my eyes and ask myself, "did JayP score a guest spot with ZPZ?" For his shirt was full on American sugar Bitch banner styles! I laugh, and get settled in for some hardcore Sheik yerbouti! (one of the first few Zappa cd's I bought, so as you can understand, it holds some large sentimental value, (yes, even a song like I'm so Cute!) So hearing them was excellent, but as has been stated before, this band is not so well suited for this type of backbeat heavy rock. Not up to sheik standards, but still a full on pleasure to hear. I enjoyed Terry's zappaesque alterations on the vocals, that was aprreciated by me, this man is a monster. I was hoping the whole audience would sing along with the renenena's, but it seemed I was the only person craving an infinite amount of voices singing it like on the cd. in between songs, bozzio started a speech about how cool it was to have met dweezil when he was like five, and now be touring with him! He then said that as he went to his drum workshops missing shows, every time he'd come back dweezil had kicked the shows up a few notches, to which Dweezil responded, "Now this is just turning into a sycophantic love fest" which made me laugh for some time. Something about the way dweezil said it, it was just the perfect comment. Then into tryin to grow a chin (that conversation MAY have happened after chin, but methinks before.) with a similar criticism as my previous post, just not quite the right aggressive feel that song originally had, though I have to say, that, how they say, pregnant pause before one more time for the world felt SO fucking good live, knowing the riff was coming back just jazzed me all up!
now of course, people have been pretty consistent in marking the next song as the highlight of the show, and I'm glad they are as insane as I am. When dweezil first said the word POUND I freaked out. I hope I didn't scare the families around me too much, I had forgotten this song was even in the running. The melody section was played perfectly, then came a whole other level of magic. Just to start, I'm not slighting the musician's here at all by not talking about their solos, because all apologies, but I didn't take in one note, as Terry's playing was just so fucking amazing. Continuosly changing, always engrossing, and always perfect. Must have been at least 8 to 10 minutes of pure magic. I can't say enough, or describe it so I'll stop, but no matter what anyone else played, Bozzios playing was just too powerfully facinating, (he was complimenting them too though, don't think he played over and out of what they were doing.) the only exception was the bassists solo, he got me out of my Terry trance and stuck into a totally amazing solo. So that's saying a lot! Once again the rhythm guitarist's solo kicked ass, but no percussion solo on pound was a hard pill to swallow, still, it was unbelievably amazing. All I could think was, "I feel SO bad the rest of the world didn't get to hear Terry play Pound!" despite the fact initally I was most excited to see Nappy live, (I've seen steve before, otherwise he would have been the main attraction for me) Not to mention Pound's ending just got immediately sucked up into the intro to PUNKY'S!!!! Now remember pound was only played once, (and only because Dweezil's guitar cut out) so this segue was likely not rehearsed before today, but it worked SO well. So now we get a song I NEVER thought I'd hear live, and it was wonderful. Joe's intro was perfect. It was a joy to hear him do it live. He made an altercation or two which I can't remember but they were very funny nonethless. THe first instrumental section got derailed though, (I couldn't pin point who was to blame, but mistakes were made) but everything else was played perfectly. The highlight for me was the Ain't it Romantic section, can't get enough of that melody over those chords! As JayP mentioned, I prefer the faster 77 version, but to each their own. It was still a joy to hear. NExt on the chopping block of course was the Black Page. I've never been a huge fan of it as a drum solo, doesn't quite do it for me, but once the melody kicked in, good lord!!! that was beauty. godamn beauty! I guess I'm just one of those teenagers with a hate-on for statistical density! (yeeeaaa right!) So now steve is on the floor and I'm prepared for some face melting. Peaches was of course great, during which, a pretty lady nearby walking back to her seat hear's Peaches and starts grooving her ass off in the aisle! so great to watch people dance to this, her boyfriend promptly pulled at her pant leg and got her to sit down, (stifling bastard!) They played a great version (note: unlike many, peaches is not a favorite of mine, it's wonderful no doubt, but not on my list of greatest frank pieces) the triple guitars playing frank's mini solo just blew me away, how geogeous a moment was that! I expected a peaches jam, but they played a succint version, which was fine by me either way. now we get Montana, I was expecting two montana's, which bothered my girlfriend, but was made worthwhile to me as I got to hear Vai sing it! I knew how much steve must have been enjoying singing that song, and he had a little fun with it, singing about moving to Toronto, and other alterations Frank threw in from time to time (like pondering what mental toss lycoon meant) then came a great dual (less of a duel) solo section which I thoroughly loved from both dweez and steve. now we get Sheila singing Village, and I mean, wow. Napolean was always amazing for that song, but so was sheila, maybe she was even better, but her singing made me cry again, (fuck!) it was perfect, and I pondered how it felt for dweezil to be playing a song about his father's youth. a funny strange feeling, gooseybumps and all. It was Marv Ellis. and into Echidna's, wow! Now I knew why every kept listing that as a highlight! I've always loved that song, but hearing it live just put into a whole new perspective, (in terms of how complex, AND how fucking effective it is) I was in love, near the end the knowledge that it was not going to segue into Don't You Ever Wash That Thing was painful to me, I mean those songs were born to be together, echidna craves a thorough washing afterwards, but they did repeat the last section again and ended it suitably. so I accepted though, was suprised that when the applause died down and I yelled that they needed to wash, nobody around me seemed to get it.
So now, the Dweez informs us it's getting on curfew time, and the boo was overwhelming. How could this music ever end? It was at this point It fully sunk out on what I had missed, Cheepnis for one, an alltime favorite of mine, and a staple of this show, was understandably cut sans Napolean. Hurtful but understandable. No Zomby Woof? Everyone had written that Steve's solo on this was a highlight of the show, I had been waiting ever so patiently, but this also was not to be. Eat that Question, a full on frothfest for me, I knew was unlikely to be played from past setlists, but with the news of no Napolean, I had been cheering myself all night with the knowledge (note that knowledge is neither wisdom nor truth) that ALLL the instrumentals would be played to night. Sadly not, nor the Chunga's appearance of Frank. Now this was the real bummer from me. From very early on when this concert was announced, I'd been thinking "ampex frank with improvised live backing, AWESOME! How could they NOT do it?" so when I read they started doing it with a video, well ZPZ trumped even my imagination!!!!!! So I was sure (ESPECIALLY since Napolean was absent) that Chunga's was destined for my ears, sadly, once again, nonono. instead they launched into a quick version of lumber truck (were they doing the roxy son of oh no with nappy? please respond as now I'll never know!) into Trouble. Now the original Trouble is to me, one of the greatest songs ever, (not to mention a VERY early example of rap!) the lyrics just floor me, they're as relevant now as ever. (no? just exchange black for native or muslim, whites of course play the same role as always) so the later versions of this song were always a dissapointment to me. To Frank's credit, every version would be morphed into a vehicle to make a few light comments about whatever the news story of the day was, great. but to play this song and NOT address any current issues is sad. The total lack of politics and social commentary was depressing, but I suppose I was there for the music, and on that they delivered like a motherfucker! still, I was not able to really get over my down feelings about the end of the show, (and thoughts of "they payed for more time in boston but not on their ONE canadian date?) until Terry's solo started, and of course he slayed, playing a solo with many similar riffs to the one on Baby Snakes, though I feel that this one was MUCH better, shorter, but better. during this though, knowing how close to the end the show was, I started to get bummed that we hadn't heard a Joe Travers solo yet, as he had nailed everything in the show thus far, (drumming, singing, this guy was probably as important to pulling off this tour as Dweezil) so as Terry ended and JOe's solo began, a feeling of THIS IS EXACTLY what I wanted hit, and he played a great solo, that was totally alternate to what Terry did. Bozzio's solo was more about incorporating riffs he's clearly been playing for years into an improvised frenzy, a more melodic solo (his work on his cymbals, especially how he has a splash on top of every crash was awesome) while Joe started off slow, and just whipped it into a tom trashing frenzy, with sticks breaking the laws of time and space. Me likey both equally. (the gf felt bad for joe having to follow terry, but fuck that, I'm a better drummer than her anyways!) So eventually the song ends and we are left with introductions. I knew it was eleven (fucking facsist laws!) so I knew there would be no encores, a bitter sweet end, especially since the cheers drowned out the georges Token riff which I love ever so much, (and love that they inverted Frank's tradition of those tours of using it as an intro, that is a GREAT way to pay tribut to the man!) then Dweez passed off a closing solo to Vai, which I have to iterate hear, was magnificent. absolutely georgeous and perfect. In retrospect I have to say it made up for the lack of Sofa, it was just as beutiful. MOreso knowing that Steve feels he is a hack at soloing live (this is taken from an interview with him) that he likes to practice and prepare his solos as much as he can. Which I respect, but feel bad about since I know he is a mother fucker of the highest order. So hearing him tossed a totally improvised solo was a magic moment for me, he just had to react, and boy, it was a fucking highlight of the show. so bows and curtains and a mixed feeling from me. I wanted more. so off for consolation chill down beers around the block, I interupt someone talking about seeing other tribute bands to ask how they compared. Despite the looks of "why the fuck are you interupting our very fascinating conversation" eye daggers of death I got from the others, the orator kindly informed me ZPZ was ten times better. (I asked which he'd seen and he said Project object and another he couldn't name) so we drink our warm creemore, then I drag m'lady off to grab some fastfood for later, (corporate whore, that's me!) on the way back, I lead her a block off our path, to see if the band has come out to the busses yet, and luckily enough for me...as I was on a mission. I got the chance to ask the vaultmeister if Frank ever recorded the rest of Hunchentoot. I know a wall of flames is likely to befall me at this moment, but I feel it is THE great lost Zappa masterpiece, and I want to hear all the songs SOOOOO badly. (let alone see the full thing mounted, I mean I realize in reality if Frank wasn't able to get the funding, it'll never happen, but a cd of all the songs would be better than anything else on this equivalent earth that I could wish for) He didn't seem too sure about it, but tried to console me that most of it had already been released. Essentially it made me realize I will never get to hear those lost songs, which makes me sad as hell, if anyone knows of ANY of them existing, PLEASE let me know, (and thank god for Joe's Domage, not only is it a fantastic fucking opportunity to attend a Zappa rehearsal, I mean what could be more exciting than that!!!! but we get the Think it Over with lyrics.)
Soonly, Steve Vai came out and started signing autographs, as much of a god he is to me, without a cd of mine to hand him, all I had to say was, as he answered questions to the orderly people who'd been waiting in line backstage for an hour, was to tell him he was in one of Frank's greatest groups, and that the Token solo was amazing. so next we head back to the hotel room, Chrissy falls asleep to me babbling excitedly about the night, and in a desperate attempt to fall asleep I drink a bottle of wine and composing a fancy little riff commemrating the excitement of it all, destined to take a place in the ongoing epic composition, "Sucks I Never Got the Chance to Fail an Audition for Frank"
thank you for putting this show on all!!!!!!!!!! motherfuckin!