Blu-ray Review: ZZ Top - Live At Montreux 2013

The little old band from Texas still has it in their latest live release.
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The Montreux Jazz Festival has always been a special place for ZZ Top. The band has turned in many memorable performances at the festival and bassist Dusty Hill has amassed a collection of event posters, some given to him personally by the late Claude Nobs, the festival's founder. In July 2013, the band made its first appearance at Montreux since Nobs' passing, turning in a blues-soaked set of the band's brand of Texas rock. The performance was filmed and makes up the Blu-ray ZZ Top - Live At Montreux 2013.

The show opens with a hard-charging "Got Me Under Pressure." Stripped of its studio overdubs and sequencers, the track still rocks, possibly harder than on record. Billy Gibbons sings the song as a duet with Hill, giving the song a different feel. While still effective on most tracks, Gibbons' trademark growl is showing some signs of age, so Hill's assistance on the song is a bonus for fans. The classic duo of "Waitin' For The Bus," followed by "Jesus Just Left Chicago," follows with the band locked in a heavy groove throughout. From the outset, one notices how big a sound the three members of the band make and Gibbons' guitar tone is nothing short of massive.

The band places two new numbers, "I Gotsta Get Paid" and "Flyin' High" in the middle of the set and they fit in well. ZZ Top has long since passed its synth rock/sequencers phase (The move toward their roots arguably began with Recycler's "My Head's In Mississippi," which is also included) and these songs could fit in on any number of their 1970s albums. The former is a blues-rock remake of an old rap record by DJ DMD featuring Lil' Keke and Fat Pat while the latter mixes the unmistakable ZZ Top guitar sound with a power pop chorus. A third new track, "Chartreuse," is the strongest of the bunch and is played later in the show.

Austin, TX, musicians Mike Flanigin and Van Wilks join the band on Hammond B3 and guitar respectively for two tracks. The first is "Kiko," a groove-laden jam that that features Flanigin on organ as images of Nobs fill the screen while the second is "Freddie King's "I Loved The Woman," which finds Hill mostly on vocals, delivering a passionate blues take as Gibbons tortures every last note out of his guitar. It is a highlight both for the novelty of seeing ZZ Top playing as anything other than a trio, as well as for the great music.

Some of the band's biggest hits follow, including "Legs," complete with furry guitars and scenes from the famous music video on the screen and killer renditions of "La Grange" and "Tush" that feature some extended soloing from Gibbons. While Gibbons' vocals definitely seemed to be "fixed in the mix" for "Legs," the concert is mostly three legends making a great noise.

The video is presented in 1080i High Definition 16:9 and, as with all of the Montreux releases, looks great. Audio options include DTS Master Audio and LPCM Stereo. An interview with Gibbons on the Montreux Jazz Festival is included as a bonus feature, as is a separate interview with Gibbons and Hill. The audio for these inteviews is in mono.

The Montreux Jazz festival has seen its share of legendary artists giving legendary performances over the years. It's a testament to ZZ Top that they have played the festival so many times and ZZ Top - Live At Montreux 2013 shows the band hasn't lost a step.