ZZ Top’s Vancouver fans wimp out while the band delivers the goods

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 4, 1990

ZZ Top has always been one of the coolest bands in the land. Those wacky beards, those nifty suits, those fuzzy guitars—not to mention those barnstormin’ boogie tunes that make you wanna rock ’n’ roll all night and party every day.

But after last Tuesday’s (October 2) concert at the Coliseum, I’m left wondering if the Texas trio will be able to maintain that super-coolness in the eyes of its fans. Even though the band drew a sell-out crowd of 14,000, that audience’s response was downright lame in comparison to the unbridled frenzy of past shows.

What happened to the flailing sea of fists and arms you usually see covering the floor area at ZZ shows? Where were the large numbers of fans standing up in their seats and shaking their moneymakers? Had every last ZZ Top fan in Vancouver grown old and timid since the group’s last visit?

Not likely. But it could be that folks have become just a little too familiar with the ZZ Top of recent years. The novelty of the band’s image—which has been played up so much in its videos—might be wearing off. Or it could be the simple fact that the band hasn’t released anything new since the less-than-spectacular Afterburner LP of ’88. (A new album, Recycler, is expected shortly.)

At any rate, the relative drought of enthusiasm at Tuesday’s show certainly wasn’t due to any lack of trying on the band’s part, because guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard did deliver the goods with two hours worth of Texas-fried treats like “Legs”, “Tush”, “Tube Snake Boogie”, “La Grange”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, “I Heard It on the X”, “Got Me Under Pressure”, and “Gimme All Your Loving”.

As usual the band thought BIG when it came to their stage, which was resembled a junkyard with trashed cars and auto parts, a flat-bed truck for the drums to sit on, and a huge yellow crane that picked stuff up with a magnet and dumped it in a compactor. Two built-in moving walkways ran the length of the stage and allowed Hill and Gibbons—identically decked out in black suits, shades, white caps, and oversized white guitars—to take effortless moonwalks whenever they desired.

That old concert stand-by, laser-on-mirror-ball, turned the rink into a glittering rock palace for the slow-blues portion of the night.

Colin James, who’ll be touring with ZZ Top in the coming months, opened the show with real verve, looking totally at ease on the big stage. Mixing up tunes from his debut LP and the recent Sudden Stop, the youthful blues-rocker showed snatches of the guitar prowess that so impressed his good friend and mentor, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. When the crowd called for an encore (which James wasn’t allowed to give), it was nice to think that maybe Vaughan was somewhere up there, smiling in approval.

He’d probably have given his fellow Texans the thumbs-up too.

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