Prior to the release of this DVD, ZZ Top had sat atop my "Missing In Action" list of great bands who have yet to release a concert DVD. Hell, the only live album these guys have ever released was the whopping half-album worth on 1975's Fandango! That is a crime for such a great live band.
I finally got to see ZZ Top live for the first time back in 2003, and that concert left me surprisingly underwhelmed. Maybe my expectations were too high after hearing all of my friends describe the mind-blowing ZZ Top concerts they attended back in the 80's. Unfortunately, most of this DVD left me with a similar feeling.
Live From Texas was recorded and filmed at the Nokia Theatre in Dallas, Texas on November 1st, 2007. I was surprised at how lackluster the band's stage show was for this concert. It was like they made a last minute stop at Rent-A-Light-Show and pulled something generic off the rack that could have been used on the last Hanson tour. The lighting and LED screens displayed colors and images that did not really match or accentuate the band's unique style and personality at all. And these guys used to put on one of the most unique and elaborate stage shows in the business.
But who really cares about the stage show as long as the music still kicks ass right? Unfortunately, the little ol' band from Texas appeared to be going through the motions (slow-motion at times) on many of the songs, which made the performance very inconsistent. "Got Me Under Pressure" was not the most exciting choice of songs to open the show with, but they started to pick up a head of steam by the next three songs, "Waitin’ For The Bus," "Jesus Just Left Chicago," and "I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide," which are three of their finest.
The highlight of the show came midway through the set when Gibbons unleashes some heroic guitar riffs and bottle-neck slide on the Rio Grande Mud classic "Just Got Paid." Do yourself a big favor and check out Joe Bonamassa's live version of this number. It has become a staple of his live shows, and he has really made it his own. "Rough Boy" sounded much more satisfying than the overly synthetic sounding Afterburner original, thanks to Gibbons' excellent blues guitar soloing throughout.
The band has a very rugged and stripped down live sound now, with hardly a hint of the sequencers, synthesizers, and electronic drums that dominated their mega-selling 80's albums, Eliminator, and Afterburner. This made the songs from that era sound much less robotic than their studio counterparts, but it also made songs like Legs sound a little hollow in comparison to the heavily synthesized original.
They closed out the encore set with two of their most enduring classics, "La Grange," and "Tush," and I have never heard "La Grange" sound quite so neutered. Maybe there was a problem with the audio mix on my DVD copy, but the ferocious guitar part that follows the opening drum salvo just never really materialized. It was as if Gibbons forgot to step on his overdrive pedal after the mellow opening section.
"La Grange" bled right into that monster opening guitar riff of "Tush," which thankfully maintained the fiery intensity of the original. This was Dusty Hill's only lead vocal of the night, and he really struggled throughout most of the song. He didn't even attempt to carry that long note at the end of the "Dallas, Texas, Hollywoooooooooohoood" verse.
Although it is impossible for a band that has so many great songs, and has been around as long as ZZ Top, to put together a set list that will satisfy all of their fans, this setlist was still kind of a let down. First of all, it was much too short. At first glance you might think that a 17-song set is pretty respectable, but most of ZZ Top's songs are very short, and the set ended up only running about 83 minutes.