Sunday, August 2, 2009

Falkoner Theater, March 1979

It was at the Falkoner Theater in Copenhagen, Denmark, where Ian Underwood’s saxophone solo during “King Kong,” following his explanation of how he met Frank Zappa found within the track “Ian Underwood Whips It Out” on Uncle Meat, was recorded. That event occurred on Oct. 1, 1967. This bootleg, however, is a recording from a show at the same venue from March 5, 1979.

Frank has some outstanding guitar solos on this boot, so don’t be misled by my rating. It’s the sound quality of this alleged soundboard recording that brings it down to the four-star level, not the material. In general, I have vowed not to award five stars to a boot, simply because of the diminished sound quality with boots. However, this concert boot is one that I could easily give five stars to had the sound quality been better.

A picture LP bootleg was apparently released of this concert, with the Falkoner show on one side, and on the other side, a February show from Gothenburg, Sweden, from a year earlier. I’ve read in a few spots, such as here, that the 1979 tour was very erratic, with some outstanding shows like at the Falkoner, as well as some very mediocre performances. This should come as no surprise, really. When you’re touring and performing that many shows, it’s difficult to call up every night the same inspiration to play equally well as the night before. It’s like the NBA; there are so many games scheduled in the NBA season that if you were a season ticket holder, you’re inevitably going to watch some very boring games during which the home team gets its ass whupped. You follow any rock band’s tour, you’re bound to hit a few bummer shows.

The Falkoner show begins with “The Deathless Horsie,” which was a common opener during the 1978-79 tours. Frank puts his guitar through the wringer on this number, cranking out an amazing solo as he tests his axe from one extreme to the other. Many bands would avoid this type of solo as the first number in a set, as the opening number is usually a fairly routine item used to make sure everyone’s instruments are functioning properly and are in tune. The next tune, “Dead Girls of London,” never showed up on an official, Zappa “studio” release, the closest official recording it was released on being YCDTONA Vol. 5. However, Zappa recorded it with Lakshminarayana Shankar for the latter’s 1979 release of “Touch Me There,” an album that Zappa produced and on which he appeared, along with Ike Willis.

After a quick “I Ain’t Got No Heart,” we get a decent, full-blown performance of “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It,” one of my favorite Zappa compositions. There’s a brief, but searing, guitar solo on “Cosmik Debris,” (I suspect by Warren Cuccurullo), followed by “Tryin’ to Grow a Chin,” with competent vocals turned in by Denny Walley. But there’s a special treat coming up next with “City of Tiny Lites,” a song constructed with a guitar solo in mind, and with this performance we get two good solos, one each from Frank and Denny Walley. Denny starts first with a furious slide guitar, followed by a demented Frank, who is almost vicious with the way he takes his playing to the high end of the neck. Arthur Barrow and Vinnie Colaiuta provide a rhythm line in the background on bass and drums respectively that sends this song into the stratosphere of kick-ass arena rock. It’s tracks like this one that I would normally give a recording 4.5 or five stars, but the recording isn’t that clear or mixed well, so alas, I can’t give it a higher rating than I did.

The band zips through “Dancin’ Fool,” followed by “Easy Meat,” featuring another of Frank’s amazing solos. And again, Colaiuta’s pounding on the drums really turns this song into an intense, heavy-metal of a head-banger. Good god, those Danes were treated to a musical miracle that night. And we’re not even half way into this more-than two-hour show.

Things slow down a bit with “Jumbo Go Away,” but the heavy intensity remains (the sound quality is very muddled through this as well). Following is one of the few live performances of “Andy” that I’ve heard, followed by “Inca Roads,” a song of such rhythmic complexity that it frustrated George Duke to no end. One of the few times I saw Zappa in concert, the band played “Inca Roads,” but the solo he played in that show was nothing like on this boot. This is certainly one of Zappa’s more cerebral, yet still accessible, works.

Another song from “One Size Fits All” comes along with a tune about a cookie, “Florentine Pogen.” This brings the band into a period of the show when they sweep through a series of songs from, at the time, yet-to-be-released albums, including “Tinseltown Rebellion,” (which wasn’t released for another two years) “Joe’s Garage,” (released later in 1979) and “You Are What You Is” (released two years later). This is followed by one of Zappa’s most recognizable melodies, “Peaches En Regalia.” Better sound quality would have made this version much more enjoyable, as there are some very interesting rhythmic interpretations going on here. The song is the concert’s closer, but there is an encore!

That encore begins with “The Yellow Snow Suite,” which includes the first four songs from “Apostrophe(‘).” You can hear the crowd digging this performance. “St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast” and “Father O’Blivion” are normally fast-paced songs, but the tempos of these two numbers during this concert are amazingly frenetic; the band is spot-on.

Next comes “A Pound For a Brown (On the Bus),” which demonstrates again the band’s tight playing on some very complex rhythms. Ed Mann on the vibes is fantastic, as are Tommy Mars and Peter Wolf, who play some brilliant keyboards (normally, Tommy Mars’ keyboard playing bores me). And Vinnie Colaiuta provides a rare and outstanding drum solo.

The concert closes with the dark “Treacherous Cretins,” a very grand piece featuring Frank’s virtuoso guitar. This is a more-than eight-minute song with Zappa’s guitar front and center. It is a beautiful piece, one that rivals “Watermelon in Easter Hay.”

I give this four of five stars. Add your own rating below.

Recorded live at the Falkoner Theater, Copenhagen, Denmark, March 5, 1979

Set list:

The Deathless Horsie
Dead Girls Of London
I Ain't Got No Heart
Brown Shoes Don't Make It
Cosmik Debris
Tryin' To Grow A Chin
City Of Tiny Lites
Dancin' Fool
Easy Meat
Jumbo Go Away
Inca Roads
Florentine Pogen
Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me
Keep It Greasy
The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing
For The Young Sophisticate
Fembot in A Wet T-Shirt Nite
Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?
Peaches En Regalia
The Yellow Snow Suite
A Pound For A Brown (On The Bus)
Treacherous Cretins


FZ (guitar, lead vocals)
Arthur Barrow (bass)
Vinnie Colaiuta (drums)
Warren Cuccurullo (guitar)
Ed Mann (percussion)
Tommy Mars (keyboards)
Denny Walley (slide guitar, vocals)
Ike Willis (vocals, guitar)
Peter Wolf (keyboards)

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