Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., May 23, 2008
ZZ TopBackyard, May 15
At a quarter-century past Eliminator, ZZ Top still cruises along like it's 1983. After reaching its commercial pinnacle on the strength of indelible music-video imagery, the Houston trio succumbed to a don't-fudge-the-formula ethic that's resulted in diminishing returns ever since. Keeping in line with this legacy-truncating lockstep, the Top's final fandango at the Backyard was a state fair performance for the price of a concert ticket. Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, the veteran threesome trotted out all the classic rock pile drivers and not much else. "Gimme All Your Lovin'" was a natural opener, followed by their extra-nasty take on Sam & Dave's "I Thank You." The road gravel in guitarist Billy Gibbons' voice asserted itself throughout the set, but within the context of the band's wink-and-nod lasciviousness, it was more a mark of distinction than distraction. Bassist Dusty Hill's pipes were considerably more intact on his 12-bar spotlight piece, "I Loved a Woman." Poorly aging hits from Afterburner and Recycler were mercifully absent, while seasoned standards like "Just Got Paid" and the medley of "Waitin' for the Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago" delivered the juice. Sadly, when they tried to roll out "Chevrolet" from 1972's Rio Grande Mud and "It's Only Love" from 1976's Tejas, both songs crashed due to technical snafus and were never heard from again. With the former, it sounded like the wrong drum track was cued up. A significantly slowed-down version of "Heard It on the X" found drummer Frank Beard plowing past the intricacies that gave the original bounce. Even as they ended reasonably strong with an elongated "Tush," the scent of stultification was unmistakable. At this rate, you might as well wait for the animatronic version of ZZ Top that will undoubtedly be part of the Texas State History Museum's permanent collection someday.