Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on


ZZ Top – Double Down Live: 1980/2008

When I think about the early concerts that played an important part in my development as a music fan, there's one that comes up in conversation quite a bit.  My friend David had tickets to see ZZ Top at Richfield Coliseum in February of 1991, a concert that is also notable for featuring the Black Crowes opening, a slot that marked their first major arena tour.  Truthfully, the Crowes weren't very good (which was a shame, since I really liked their debut album at the time) but their inclusion on the bill was historic, because they would get booted from the tour a short time later for their continual criticism of Miller Lite, the official sponsor for the tour.  I wasn't a huge ZZ Top fan at the time - I knew the hits, but didn't really own any of the albums, except for Afterburner, which I had obtained while growing up as a kid.  I had seen the videos, and I definitely knew the drill, but hadn't taken it any further than that.

With an offer of a ticket to the Richfield show, I decided it was finally time to complete my ZZ Top education, and I couldn't have made a better decision.  Pre-game activities included watching a very large man eat an entire large pizza all by himself, followed by an incident a few moments later in which he vomited all over the person sitting in front of him.  This was my 4th or 5th major concert, and I was glad to not be sitting in front of this gentleman, and at the same time, I really enjoyed the incident which seemed like something you could only experience at a rock and roll show.  It made me want to attend more concerts, which I've certainly done plenty of, since then.

ZZ Top came walking out of their videos that night with an on-stage persona that was larger than life, playing amidst a "junkyard" of  television monitors that were littered all over the stage, each one projecting/transmitting random images.  Bassist Dusty Hill and guitarist Billy Gibbons moonwalked their way across the across the stage on moving sidewalks while high fiving, sharing hand signals that said "you're the man" and just looking cool.  Cooler than anyone you'd ever met prior to tonight, and probably cooler than anyone you're ever going to meet after this night.

The band were touring to promote their Recycler album, hence the junkyard theme of the stage, and appropriately enough, midway through the concert, the band members were one by one "recycled" and spit out as metal blocks, subsequently jumping out of the blocks and resuming the concert.

On that night, I bought the concert shirt, the metal ZZ Top logo key chain that is supposed to help you get girls (but didn't, for me) and I probably would have taken one of the band members home to grill him for some tips on being cool, had that been available at the merch stand.

In the years since that concert, whenever I tell that story, I always had regret that there wasn't a worthy video package to illustrate for anyone that hasn't had the privilege of attending a ZZ Top show exactly how cool the "Little Ol' Band from Texas" is.  Quality bootlegs of the band, both audio and video, were hard to come by with a couple of exceptions.  And now, one of those choice audio/video souvenirs is being released officially with the pending DVD release on October 20th of ZZ Top's Double Down Live: 1980/2008.

ZZ Top - Double Down Live

With the release of Double Down Live, music fans can officially get their mitts on the legendary, and I mean LEGENDARY 1980 Rockpalast ZZ Top performance.  For years, this performance has been one of the only professionally shot ZZ Top performances available in trading circles.  Captured on the Deguello tour in Germany, the mighty Top kicks out a set featuring all of the tracks from that album minus one, layered with all of the choice cuts from the six albums that came prior to Deguello.  On this tour, the band were at their peak, perfecting their method of performance that, pun intended, they ultimately would "recycle" for the next 30 years.

During a fiery performance of "Arrested While Driving Blind," Gibbons took a mid-set temperature from the German crowd, telling them "I sure hope ya'll can get down, 'cos I'm gonna tear this guitar up," prior to ripping yet another guitar solo on the night to wrap up the song.  The energy both on-stage and in the crowd is incredible when you read the liner notes and find out that ZZ Top were playing this set at four o'clock in the morning.  The band was a late addition to the Rockpalast festival lineup, and Rockpalast producer Peter Ruechel had determined that none of the existing acts - The Blues Band, Joan Armatrading, or Ian Hunter/Mick Ronson, would be able to follow a ZZ Top performance.

You don't have to watch very much of this Rockpalast performance to understand Ruechel's concerns.  Drummer Frank Beard leads the Top into the second half of the legendary "Waitin' For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago" combo, and as they kick into "Jesus," the swagger is unholy, and had they only performed a single song, it would have kicked the asses of any band that might have followed them on-stage, so Ruechel had the right idea.  And the crowd was down for it, every minute, and every note, calling out for a 2nd set of encores at 5:30 AM, a call that the band answered with two more songs.

The video has occasional moments of wavy lines/interference that either originated at the time of the original broadcast, or are a result of the age of the master tape - they don't detract from the enjoyment of the program at all, and the audio portion is pristine and sounds great, complete with a 5.1 surround mix.

This package, with an always welcome appearance by Gibbons' legendary alter-ego, the "Reverend Willie G;" during "Fool For Your Stockings" with the cross rap in the middle would be sufficiently complete with just the 1980 material.  But Double Down Live also includes a second DVD featuring live performances recorded in 2008.  The inclusion initially seems unnecessary, since the band just released a live DVD last year, Live from TexasLive from Texas was a very rough performance though, and I'd like to think that perhaps the band wanted to take another crack at recording a live DVD to properly represent the present day ZZ Top live performance.

And if that was their aim, I'd say they succeed with Double Down Live - the 2008 portion finds the Top on their game, and while the setlist doesn't vary much from Live from Texas, the key inclusion of an especially down and dirty version of "I Need You Tonight" makes this sucker a must view.  Unlike Texas, which was shot with multiple cameras, DDL is a Frankenstein creation hacked together from multiple performances during last year's tour, all shot by a single camera, edited together by co-director Jamie Burton Chamberlin. Chamberlin and Gibbons edited the Almost Now portion of DDL so that it plays as a nice documentary of ZZ Top on the road, featuring full performances  of 11 ZZ Top classics cut together with entertaining French interview footage and plenty of backstage moments and commentary.

With the band celebrating 40 years together, Double Down Live is a nice package that nicely celebrates where they've been, where they are now, and presumably where they're going will include additional miles on the tour bus, bringing the rock worldwide.  It's what they do, and thank god for that.

  • Kevin

    HELL YES!!! We finally see the legendary show. Long overdue but most welcome.

    Good job of avoiding the projectile pizza…

  • judd6149

    Mate, nice story. “ZZ Top logo key chain that is supposed to help you get girls”…that didn't work for me either. I have their box set and I love disc 1&2: Francene, Heard it on the X, Mexican Blackbird, Bar-B-Q (!)…those are great tunes. I have never been in to the Live though. This may be my entry point.

    They are here in London next month. I'm getting tix today.

  • Stacy

    I can testify to the unholy good bluesy-rock of this DVD. For I have seen it… and my brothers and sisters, IT IS GREAT.

    BTW Matt, the show you went to in 91 was the same I took my mom to. Huh? Yes, my mom.

  • W. G. McMutton

    Jamie got to do this DVD on the merits of his previous film, “Rock and Roll Gearhead”, 4 days following Billy G. around with a camera. I drove 150 miles to see this in 2007 (although there were people who came in from Las Vegas and Texas too). I wasn't disappointed. This should be some great stuff coming out. If (when) “Gearhead” gets released, be sure to snatch that up too!

  • john

    Hot-Dang! Finally an official release of this excellent show. I have a dvd bootleg of this show that I have (as we say in Texas) 'plum wore out'! Those 'wavy lines' you mentioned are an unfortunate side effect often detected in earlier filmed rock shows. I have been told by those in the know that they are 'noise lines' that were caused by inteference from audio cables. If you'll notice, they seem to come from the same camera angle. Overall, I'd say that this is the very best concert dvd that I've seen. A 'must have' for any true ZZ TOP fan.

  • jamie chamberlin

    Hey there,

    Thanks for your continued support… I think you are gonna love this thing…I seen it over 100 times in the edit bay and I still am not tired of it.. Best, Jamie

    PS- I'll keep you posted on GEARHEAD.

  • mrcrowley

    I have seen the boyz about 15 times or so. They put on a great show! I can't wait until 10/20. That 1980 show is a not-to-be-missed classic!

  • Pingback: VIDEO: ZZ Top – Jesus Just Left Chicago « Dyrgas Gate()

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    Is someone know this LP : Takin’ Texas To The People (1985) It isnt the WW Live.
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  • Pingback: ZZ Top - Jesus Just Left Chicago |


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