Review of ZZ Top: Live From Texas
Label
Eagle Rock
ZZ Top: Live From Texas

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD

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S

ay what you want about the tres hombres, but two things are undeniable: Billy Gibbons is a true blues guitar master, and the band's played its blues rock for four decades solid. Then you can pick nits: one, they sound old; two, "Tube Snake Boogie," Rough Boy," and "Pearl Necklace" were crappy songs to begin with, and they have no business being on the Top's first and possibly last full-length concert video; and three, the band's early half-live album Fandango still will set your speakers aflame and set the standard for live ZZ -- anything left in 2008 will sound tame in contrast.

Still, the blues stuff is rock solid. Like a fine sherry put away for 30 years, Gibbons only gets better.  The band does a great job of focusing on its early material ("Just Got Paid," "Jesus Just Left Chicago,""Cheap Sunglasses," "La Grange," "Tush") and all the damned 1980s MTV hits from their Eliminator peak ("Got Me Under Pressure," "Legs," "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man"). The vocals definitely sound like a band with 200,000 miles on the odometer, but their graceful -- and gracious -- stage presence really does more than make up for it, except when singing about such undignified stuff as pearl necklaces. Then they just look like dirty old clowns until they slip back into blues more becoming of the musicians that, as young-‘uns, shared the stage with titans of the blues such as Muddy Waters and Freddie King.

The concert's actually pretty good, although I'd pony up $25 to see a 1975 concert of these boys scorching some county fairground in sagebrush territory.

The bonus material here is more revealing, including an instant classic rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady," kicking off with some signature licks Gibbons claims Hendrix taught him directly. There's a hokey staged poker game -- ZZ Top's backstage dice and poker games have grown legendary over the years -- in which the band talks about its history. It's a dumb gimmick, but the content of the conversation is priceless, as they reminisce about their formation and early gigs, their influences and their own world view of rock history (best -- and perhaps at least half believable -- is that 13th Floor Elevators and its leader Roky Erickson launched the hippie-psychedelic era in Texas, and those dopes from California like the Grateful Dead followed the Texans' dusty trail to nirvana). But there's tons of great little details you probably never knew about ZZ Top, like the 411 on the beards and why drummer Frank Beard is the one that doesn't have a beard. Or how their long relationship with the Rolling Stones started -- and grew to the point where Keith Richards introduced the band at their Rock Hall induction. Or that Paula Abdul choreographed the "Velcro Fly" video, but their footwork was so pathetic in her eyes that she actually nailed their boots to the floor to overcome their issues (they left them in place when the filming was over, walking off in their socks, we'd presume).

Overall, the DVD's a nice little piece of rock-n-roll-iana that anyone who appreciates good music will get a kick out of watching at least once. It's never too serious, not at all arrogant, and the power trio still kicks out some kinda sublime blues. Worth the time, if you're up for a backyard barbecue and can accept ZZ Top in winter, almost hitting its 40th anniversary. Considering this here's the only concert DVD the band's done, you might never get that definitive 1975 performance, anyway.

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