Frank Zappa

Live in Barcelona

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Although not officially sanctioned by the Zappa Family Trust this is the first pro-shot DVD to surface from the final Frank Zappa tour. The band consists of his core '80s lineup with Zappa (guitar/vocals/Synclavier), Ike Willis (vocal/rhythm guitar/percussion), Mike Keneally (guitar/synthesizer/vocals), Scott Thunes (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums/percussion), Ed Mann (percussion/vibraphone/marimba), and Bobby Martin (keyboards/sax/voice). Plus, a five-piece horn section that marks the return of the siblings Bruce Fowler (trombone) and Walt Fowler (trumpet/flugelhorn), alongside Paul Carman (sax), Albert Wing (sax), and Kurt McGettrick (sax/clarinet). Even as internal strife within the combo would result in Zappa canceling a fair number of North American dates on the tour, viewers and listeners are hard-pressed to find much fault with the consistently spirited material spanning the better part of Zappa's (then) two-plus-decade long career. Highlights are plentiful as every selection brims with Zappa's trademark humor and equally infamous pursuit of sonic superiority -- thanks to his leadership and demand for perfection. As was common during the latter tours, Zappa splits his time between conducting the ensemble, singing, and the occasional guitar solo. The far-too-infrequently performed Joe's Garage (1979) album track "Packard Goose" is enhanced with quotes from "The Royal March" out of Igor Stravinsky's L'Historie Du Soldat (1918) and Béla Bartók's "Piano Concerto No. 3" circa 1945. His fretwork is especially intense on "The Black Page #2" and "Black Napkins," while the instrumental "Big Swifty" gives the whole combo room to display their immense talents. "The Torture Never Stops" is turned into a lengthy medley that gives props to the local custom, whereby the promoter organizes a raffle of prostitutes to lucky band and crew members. In addition to that bit of folk lore from the road, there are references to the theme from the TV show Bonanza and even a reading of the 200 Motels (1971) era classic "Lonesome Cowboy Burt." A strong combination of covers links the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post" -- featuring a powerful vocal from Bobby Martin -- to the Beatles' "I Am The Walrus." As if that weren't enough, the oldie "Strictly Genteel" -- also from 200 Motels -- concludes this mammoth two-plus-hour concert.