Slaughterhouse-82

Posted: December 19, 2014 in concert report, live concert photo, zappa
Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

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Rome, July 9, 1982: lick me, my first Zappa concert!

After 32 years I eventually managed to listen to it again in a fair audio quality, thanks to a mysterious audience (I guess) recording from the archives of an anonymous philanthropist.

This recording sounds slightly more clear than the old one I had from those very days, so thanks to such a gentle spirit, my 2014 zappadan has taken a sharp turn into 1982 and the music of the heavy chamber rock band with “Stefano” Vai, a truly tight one, having already toured together since almost one year (from September 1981) before this Rome performance.

I was into Zappa since my teens, and being 19, I was ready and longing to go live, towards the end of those reckless years. However there was one very thing I was sure of: I did not want to loose any moment of the performance, any quote or joke I knew Zappa would eventually put into the flow of the concert. That’s why I resolutely refused to participate to the ritual of the scented smokes, a social custom I was familiar with in those years. And it was a right move to enjoy the music, though in the most uncomfortable environment I ever had experience of as a concert venue. It was the dusty field of the city old slaughterhouse, with a fine white sand floating around all the time breathing was not easy. With his usual sarcasm Frank opened the show with this greeting:

Hello there Rome, welcome to the show tonight…
in this “most lavishly appointed area”…
We hope that you’ll be “comfortable” during the show…
because you’re gonna be here for at least two hours…
So relax!

It was the eighties and in a city like Rome there was nothing better than a decaying slaughterhouse to host a Zappa concert? It was just one of the many ill-fated circumstances of the 1982 Italian tour, some of them depicted in the Man of Utopia cover that, as told somewhere else in this blog, had been conceived in Rome in those days, at first for a 1982 live in Italy project.

Back to the Rome concert, we had an extra treat before the show: a one our long soundcheck. And we needed it, our willing suspension of disbelief for the rotten venue started as the music began. Something more of a soundcheck actually, in the case of RDNZL for instance Zappa asked the band to repeat a few times the tangled lick that occurs before the guitar solo (1:21 – 1:23 in the 1982 YCDTOSA5 version), could he be eventually satisfied? Anyways, the arrangement of the piece the band was going to play includes some parts with a slower tempo than those in the YCDTOSA5 version.

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, soundcheck, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, soundcheck, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

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The shows was about to begin, and I was definitely ready to go!

The set list (notes via FZShows, v. 7.1) and the band:

The Mammy Anthem (q: Volare)
intros (q: Happy Birthday)
Dancin’ Fool
RDNZL (incl. Royal March from Aida) [keyboard solo on YCDTOSA5],
Advance Romance
Joe’s Garage
Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?
Marqueson’s Chicken
Easy Meat
Dead Girls Of London
Shall We Take Ourselves Seriously?
What’s New In Baltimore?
Moggio
Broken Hearts Are For Assholes
Sinister Footwear
Stevie’s Spanking [parts on YCDTOSA4 and Video From Hell]
Tell Me You Love Me
The Closer You Are
King Kong (q: Arrivederci Roma)
Sofa [parts on YCDTOSA1]

Encores 1
No No Cherry
The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou
Strictly Genteel

Encores 2
The Illinois Enema Bandit

Frank Zappa: guitar, vocals
Ray White: guitar, vocals
Tommy Mars: keyboards
Chad Wackerman: drums
Ed Mann: percussion
Bobby Martin: hammond organ, alphorn
Scott Thunes: bass
Stefano Vai: guitar

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

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For a detailed review I would recommend the one by Jason “Foggy” Gossard (available through the SHALL WE TRADE OUR TAPES SERIOUSLY? web site), even though I find myself a little bit more positive also about the first part of the show. It may be true that the peak of the guitar improvisation is to be found in Sinister Footwear and Stevie’s Spanking (the Zappa/Vai episode – partially included in Video From Hell – is 7:24 long), but I am also fond the Zappa’s solos for Marqueson’s Chicken and Easy Meat.

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

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Anyhow, my memory still serves a great opener that brought me immediately beyond the fringe of my own comprehension. A new song with a nice quote of an Italian classic, that I was not even able to catch live, being so beyond without any chemical aid! Then Zappa brought the band behind him for the sarcastic greeting I told, and from now until Broken Hearts the set list is a perfect balance between heaviness and guitar improvisation, and pop songs from Joe’s Garage or about Boutique frame of mind or asparaguses and those hearts. I would like to give a short sample of this tense performance with Moggio, where the Steve Vai stunt guitar parts are clearly evident.

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If you compare this sample with the YCTDOSA5 version of Moggio, you will notice a slight difference in pitch, probably due to the speed of the original tape recorder, a recurring issue for the guerrilla recordings of the pre-digital era.

We may consider closed the first part of the set at the end of Broken Hearts, where “several seconds of awkward silence after Frank’s “I knew you’d be surprised!”” occurred (as properly pointed out by Foggy) before Sinister Footwear could start. And part two of the set has a lot of powerful music to deliver: having already mentioned Super Sinister and Enduring Stevie, King Kong needs a special account. Madness, improvisation, a relaxed alphorn interlude and quotes from Arrivederci Roma are some the elements of this 15:35 version of the classic monstre from the 60’s. King Kong is a perfect and extended prelude to the last song of the set: Sofa, the right closer. My new tape (as well as most of those already circulating) includes only the fist encore, which is a sort of relaxed one, being based upon Strictly Genteel. And here again Zappa demonstrates a great control of setlists, segues and balanced entertainment in general: he brought the tension a little bit down with the first encore before the real finale, where The Illinois Enema Bandit could be the right vehicle for his last “imaginary” guitar solo.

When it was over I felt exhausted and perfectly at ease with such an audio gratification. It still remains the most intense live experience I ever had. Thank you Frank!

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

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Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

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Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

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Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

Mattatoio di Testaccio (Testaccio Slaughterhouse), Rome, July 9, 1982, Zappa live, slides by arrivederci.roma1, from the zappateers.com archives

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