It's hard to believe that Billy Gibbons (guitar), Frank Beard (drums) and Dusty Hill (bass) have been playing together as ZZ Top for almost forty years now. The trio formed in Houston, Texas in 1969 and has been going strong ever since. Although they hit their commercial peak in the late seventies through the mid-eighties, they've still got a pretty rabid following and their blues based, guitar heavy rock and roll still holds up really well, decades after it was recorded. Don't believe me? Then give ZZ Top - Live In Texas a spin on your Blu-ray player.
Shot entirely in high definition in 2007 at the Nokia Theater in Dallas, Texas, the eighty-five minute live set contained on this release is fantastic from start to finish. There isn't a lot of crowd interaction - just enough to let the audience know they care - instead, the three musicians concentrate not on working up the audience but on letting the music do the work for them. Gibbons' guitar playing remains as sharp and fluid as ever and he doesn't miss a lick while the solid rhythm section from Hill and Beard compliment the fuzzed out 'guitar up front' sound that the band is famous for. The stage show is flashy enough to make you take notice, but the giant hot rod styled LED display behind the band isn't so over the top as to take the attention of what matters most - the music.
With Gibbons and Hill clad in their trademark hat and shades, crazy beards blowing in the wind, and Frank Beard happily buried behind his drum kit, ZZ Top look just as they always have. The sexual innuendo and tongue in cheek lyrics that populate most of the band's music are still fun, and the music still makes you want to shake your ass.
The track listing for the concert is as follows:
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 It On The X / Just Got Paid / Rough Boy / Blue Jean Blues / Gimme All Your Lovin' / Sharp Dresses Man / Legs / Tube Snake Boogie / La Grange / Tush
All in all, it's a nice 'greatest hits' show with all the tracks you'd expect to hear at a ZZ Top show represented nicely. Completely deserving of their 2004 Rock 'n Roll Hall Of Fame induction (courtesy of host Keith Richards), the three men who make up ZZ Top continue as an active, important, influential and respected musical force and the performance on this disc stands as testament to why and how they band have lasted as long as they have.
ZZ Top - Live From Texas arrives on Blu-ray in a 1.78.1 anamorphic 1080i AVC high definition transfer. For the most part, the image is very strong. Shot entirely on HD in 2007, this picture is colorful, crisp, and very detailed. Black levels are strong and deep while color reproduction is very natural and authentic looking. All of the stage lighting and background effects look fine and even when the entire set is bathed in red hues, the picture stays clear. There's a little bit of aliasing but there aren't any problems with edge enhancement or mpeg compression artifacts. Skin tones look dead on and detail is very strong in the foreground and the background. Ever wanted to count the hairs on Billy Gibbons or Dusty Hill's face? Now you can!
Eagle Rock Entertainment has supplied three English language audio options on this release:
-48 kHz 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
-48 kHz 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Stereo
-640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
The DTS track on this disc is the clear winner as it does a great job of using the rears to fill in audience response while keeping the front of the soundstage kicking along nicely. Bass response is excellent and the clarity of the mix is quite impressive, particularly in the guitar playing. Everything is balanced well and sounds great. The LPCM mix is the second best track and while it lacks the rear effects heard in the 5.1 mixes, it does contain some great clarity. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is solid but it lacks the punch that the other two tracks bring to the table and doesn't sound quite as natural as either of the other mixes.
Eagle Rock has rustled up a few decent supplements for this disc, and they're all presented here in the same 1080i high definition quality as the feature. Things start off with a six minute featurette entitled Dallas Show Day where through the wonders of time lapse photography we get a quick look behind the scenes of the concert from the construction of the set to the fans lining up. There are some brief interview snippets with all three band members in here as well. Up next is the eighteen minute Poker Game, which is a strange pseudo history of the band where the three members talk about their time together over a game of poker. There are a few fun stories in here and you could argue that the poker playing is in keeping with their image even if it probably would have worked better as a standard history of the band featurette. A third documentary is the five minute Photo Shoot which is literally a look at the band having a good time at a photo shoot out in the desert. Last but not least, there's a bonus song included! The band do a pretty solid version of Jimi Hendrix's Foxy Lady and while it would have been nice to see it included with the main concert, at least it's here.
Interestingly enough, while there aren't any subtitles for the concert, there are subtitles for the supplements provided in French, Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Dutch. Inside the case for this release is a six page booklet that provides a nice history of the band and some keen pictures as well.
ZZ Top has stood the test of time and remains a powerful musical force. Their music has aged well and their stage performance is still a lot of fun. They might be getting on in years a bit but the guys can still play like the Dickens and the great performance coupled with the very nice quality of this Blu-ray release earns ZZ Top - Live In Texas a very solid recommendation.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.