(Shawn White is a guest writer for Pop Critics, who reviewed a copy of the ZZ Top – Live In Texas Blu-Ray album that we were sent to screen. Since none of us have a Blu-Ray player yet, he graciously accepted the challenge of reviewing it for us. Thanks Shawn, otherwise known as The Trousered Ape!)
Let me begin by saying that as a musician I am always impressed by three-piece bands, especially when they are able to sound as full as, or fuller, than some four and five piece groups. ZZ Top is no exception in this regard.
In their first ever live concert video release, scheduled to hit stores June 27, 2008 on both DVD and Blu-ray formats, this Texas trio rocks the Nokia Theater in Dallas, Texas as they romp through their catalog of crowd favorites. For a band that has been together for 39 years (they formed in 1969) they still can bring the heat and the punch in their performance.
They kept the stage clear of clutter and unnecessary items. It was a stripped-down and suped-up hot-rod of a stage with three guys, their instruments, and minimal lighting to help set the ambiance of each song. They blasted from one song into another effortlessly, as if it were as easy as breathing. They bantered with the crowd between a few songs and even joked around with their technician when he came on stage during instrument changes (he even ran out on stage towards the end of the show and lit Billy Gibbonâ€™s cigarette for him while he was still playing).
Track line-up (Concert):
- Got Me Under Pressure
- Waitinâ€™ For The Bus
- Jesus Just Left Chicago
- Iâ€™m Bad, Iâ€™m Nationwide
- Pin Cushion
- Cheap Sunglasses
- Pearl Necklace
- Heard It On The X
- Just Got Paid
- Rough Boy
- Blue Jean Blues
- Gimmie All Your Lovinâ€™
- Sharp Dressed Man
Track line-up (Encore):
- Tube Snake Boogie
- La Grange
Presented in 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 video, at 1.78:1 by Eagle Rock Entertainment.
The band jumps out at you in a dazzling image which is flawless. The stage lighting is crisp, sharp, and vibrant with good black levels. I did not notice any artifacts during the entire concert footage, nor was there any grain to the image. I will venture out on a limb and say that they probably shot this entire show in an all digital format, but I could be wrong about that.
The picture looks like you can just step into the image, pick up Frank Beardâ€™s sticks, and start banging away on his drums. You can definitely see each and every detail from the design on the guitars to their outfits. There was more than once during the show that I thought I could just reach out and strum Gibbonâ€™s guitar.
Eagle Rock offers three audio options:
- LPCM Stereo
- Dolby Digital 5.1
- DTS HD MA (Master Audio)
The following subtitles are also offered for the bonus supplements: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Dutch.
The audio for this was really good. Traditionally, live concerts are always difficult to peg good sound because either the crowd noise is too loud or the instruments and vocals step all over each other and it becomes muddled. This is not the case with this disc. Each string that Gibbonâ€™s picks is crystal clear, as if he were sitting right next to you playing in person. Hillâ€™s bass playing was exceptional and on the mark the entire show and you could hear ever note he played without it getting lost in the mix. The drums were punchy and tight as well.
Each instrument had its own space to live and breathe in and made for an enjoyable listening experience. Overall, there was an excellent balance between each individualâ€™s instruments as well as the vocals, although Gibbonâ€™s was not as clear as I would have liked (this is more due to his singing style and not due to the mix of the show). The mixing and engineering of this was exceptional and spot on and I was impressed.
There are a handful of bonus features included on the Blu-ray disc (I am not sure about the DVD version). The features are Poker Game, Dallas Show Day, Photo Shoot, and Foxey Lady.
- Poker Game - The band is playing cards and discussing their history as ZZ Top. Interesting concept and not sure if it was totally pulled off. I personally think a feature length documentary on the group would serve a better purpose, but still, it was good.
- Dallas Show Day â€“ This is a short, behind the scenes peek at the setup of the Dallas show. It contains quick snippets of interviews with some of the key people involved in overseeing the production.
- Photo Shoot â€“ The band is on a remote location for a photo shoot.
- Foxey Lady â€“ The band does a good cover of the Jimi Hendrixâ€™s song Foxey Lady. It appears that this might have been lifted from the actual set and then added as a bonus feature. Whether it was or not, it is still a solid performance by ZZ Top and definitely a crowd pleaser.
I personally like packaging and I must admit that many of the Blu-ray titles that have been released have been sorely lacking in that department. That is why I was pleasantly surprised to see an 8-page booklet included in the case with the disc. It is a write-up by their longtime friend, Tom Vickers. Along with Tomâ€™s words, there are assorted pictures and photo collages as well. Eagle Rock definitely scored points with me on this small find.
If you are not familiar with ZZ Topâ€™s music, or if you are an old fan, I think you will enjoy this video. Itâ€™s accessible to new fans because it contains a lot of ZZ Topâ€™s hits that are probably be familiar to many people. For the die-hard Top fans, this will end up being a great addition to your collection. This is almost as good as being there.