ZZ Top | Live At Montreux 2013 – Blu-ray Disc Review

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Being in the same band for 45 years has to have moments of monotony, which is why spicing things up rewards both the players and audience. That’s what ZZ Top did in 2013 at the Montreux in 2013, when, in addition to unfurling the hits, they performed as a quintet for the first time in their history. Austin-based Hammond B3 organ player Mike Flanigin and guitarist Van Wilks joined the trio for an uncharacteristic bit of boogie that makes Live At Montreux 2013, on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, a real treasure.

You when Billy F Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard assemble, it’s going to be a tight, blue-infused joyride. They operate like a well-oiled machine, casually blasting off with “Got Me Under Pressure” the minute they stroll on stage. The most amazing thing is the songs, now matter how many times they play ’em, are delivered with home-baked goodness and care. “Waitin’ For The Bus,” “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Pincushion” all sound as hot and tasty as the day they dropped. And it’s great to see the band tackle a couple tracks from the 2012 La Futura album. “I Gotsta Get Paid” and “Flyin’ High” easily ride along with the rest of the ZZ Top herd, and allow the Reverend Willy G a great opportunity to jam a little outside the box.

That night, they dedicated the set to Claude Nobs, the Montreux promoter who died in January 2013. Photos of Nobs, a harmonica player and major blues aficionado, were flashed up on the backdrop screen. Meanwhile, Flanigin and Wilks come up for “Kiko,” and it’s like seeing a different band. And this is really where you begin to understand that ZZ Top is so much more than that Little Ol’ Band from Texas. Flanigin (not to be confused with Mike Finnigan, another B3 Hammond player) who’s backed Clapton and Jimmie Vaughn, steps up with some masterful Hammond playing. The bluesy “I Loved The Woman” seems a little less rehearsed, but gains steam as it progresses, especially when Gibbons picks out a sweet and savory solo.

The cut back to the trio for “Foxy Lady,” which has been part of the set for some time now – its significance perhaps in the fact that Jimi Hendrix once cited Gibbons favorably in an interview. The rest of the show plays out with your favorite ZZ Top standards like “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs,” “Tube Snake Boogie,” La Grange” and “Tush.” Like all Montreux shows, everything sounds and looks spectacular in glorious high definition. You’ll find a lot of these same songs on 2008’s Live In Texas DVD, but you won’t get the newer ones, and you won’t see them jam with Flanigin and Wilks, which could the biggest selling point. Bottom line is Live At Montreux 2013 is ZZ Top in overdrive, offering the best of the best, with a little extra for the discriminating fan.

~ Shawn Perry


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