Live From Texas
All the bands who emerged from the 1960s and are still performing long ago ceased being hungry artists and became business men. The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John...Their bands are brands and image is everything. They are dealers in nostalgia, providing a bushel basketful for the baby boomer generation. Any organicness to their respective shows has been polished away by 40-plus years of recordings and concerts.
Then there is ZZ TopThat Little Ole Band From Texas. Guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard could easily be a trademark for the State of Texas. From Houston and Dallas respectively, the trio passed through each others' lives through the early 1960s; Gibbons emerging from the Moving Sidewalks and Hill and Beard coming from American Blues. They came together in 1969 to form ZZ Top. The band evolved through the 1970s playing an east Texas brand of blues-rock. They broke through with Tres Hombres (London, 1973), an album found in numberless teenage boys' record collections in the mid-1970s. "Jesus Just Left Chicago," indeed.
The band's zenith was reached between 1983 and 1985 with the releases of Eliminator (Warner Brothers, 1983) and Afterburner (Warner Brothers, 1985). These recordings provided the songs (and MTV videos, a medium emerging at the time): "Gimme All Your Lovin,'" "Sharp Dressed Man," "Legs," "Rough Boy" and "Velcro Fly." The music was slick, dirty, and never lost its dusty Texas roots. Which brings us to 2008 and the state of ZZ Top.
The DVD and CD package Live From Texas carries all of the hallmarks present in the recent tours of the above mentioned acts: a bevy of radio friendly songs, well-worn, understood and expected by the audience. The band is its enigma, the image honed during the Eliminator period but never completely losing the earthiness of the first three albums.
What of the repertoire? It is what you would expect: heavy on Eliminator with enough of the early stuff to please the purists. The CD differs from the DVD in that it lacks the introduction to "Just Got Paid"in which Gibbons breaks out the Les Paul and proceeds to show the power of humbuckers and a medicine vial on steel strings. "Waitin' for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago" on the DVD illustrates the economy of motion Gibbons uses in all his guitar playing.
The concert is perfectly executed. If there is any problem, it's that it is no longer 1974.
Tracks: Got Me Under Pressure; Waitin' for the Bus; Jesus Just Left Chicago; I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide; Pin Cushion; Cheap Sunglasses; Pearl Necklace; Heard in on the X; Just Got Paid; Rough Boy; (Blues Intro) Blue Jean Blues; Gimme All Your Lovin,' Sharp Dressed Man; Legs; Tube Snake Boogie; La Grange; Tush.
Personnel: Billy Gibbons: guitar, vocals; Dusty Hill: bass, vocals; Frank Beard: drums.
DVD Production Notes: Color. Running time: 122 minutes. Bonus material.