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Music DVD Review: ZZ Top – Live From Texas

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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.

I was also disappointed that they completely ignored their last three albums, Rhythmeen, XXX, and Mescalero. So what if those albums do not quite match up against their best 70's and 80's material. It still would have been nice to hear at least a few songs from this late period of their career. "Pin Cushion," from 1994's Antenna, is the only post-1985 song included in the set. They should have a little more pride in their new stuff.

The production quality of this DVD was very impressive overall. The Hi-Def, anamorphic, widescreen video looked absolutely stunning, although the camera direction seemed to be a carry over from the band's MTV heyday. Too many hyper-fast camera angle changes for my taste.

As far as the audio quality goes, I will just say that my impression of the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mixes were not nearly as favorable as the many universally glowing audio reviews I have read of this DVD. For the only time I can remember, I found the Dolby stereo track better than the DTS track. This, and the problems I spoke about during "La Grange", lead me to believe that I may have received a bum disk. You'll have to judge the audio quality for yourself.

There are a few nice bonus features included on this DVD. Poker Game features the band sitting around a table playing cards and discussing the history of ZZ Top. Dallas Show Day takes you behind the scenes on the day of the Dallas show. Photo Shoot takes you on location to a remote photo shoot with the band. Foxey Lady captures the band performing a fine cover of this Jimi Hendrix classic, which appears to have been lifted from the actual set. They should have just kept it in the main setlist.

ZZ Top may have lost a step or two since their 80's heyday, but they are still a few steps ahead of most other bands out there. Although it failed to meet my highest expectations – what do they expect after making us wait so long – Live From Texas should be a welcome addition to any ZZ Top fan's collection.

Set List
01. Got Me Under Pressure
02. Waitin’ For The Bus
03. Jesus Just Left Chicago
04. I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
05. Pin Cushion
06. Cheap Sunglasses
07. Pearl Necklace
08. Heard It On The X
09. Just Got Paid
10. Rough Boy
11. Blue Jean Blues
12. Gimmie All Your Lovin’
13. Sharp Dressed Man
14. Legs
- Encore -
15. Tube Snake Boogie
16. La Grange
17. Tush

Ratings:
Performance 7/10
Production 8/10

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About Paul Roy

  • Arron

    Where the hell was velcro fly?