Classic rock fans everywhere are rejoicing over the release of these 2 DVD’s. Who doesn’t want to see more Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top concerts? Especially when they’re from eras of the band that haven’t been documented to death already.
Thin Lizzy’s Are You Ready?: Live At Rockpalast DVD captures a concert filmed for the German music program on the 1981 tour. This is an interesting period of the band because it features Snowy White on guitar alongside Scott Gorham. Snowy was an unusual choice, his previous gig had been on Pink Floyd’s The Wall tour. His style is much less fiery than Gary Moore or Brian Robertson but his playing is very bluesy and fits in well with Scott. Darren Wharton on keyboards had also joined the band full time to help recreate some of the parts on the Chinatown album. Brian Downey is the drummer and, of course, Phil Lynott is front and center as bassist and vocalist.
The first thing everyone wants to know is how this compares with the Live & Dangerous DVD that catches the classic line up on the 1977 tour. Are You Ready is nowhere near as good as that performance but is still worth picking up. For one thing, the 1981 set list is very different. They play great versions of all the old classics like “Suicide,” “Emerald,” “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back In Town” but it’s great to be able to watch them crank out “Chinatown,” “Black Rose” and "Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)" when they were still relatively new songs. The version of “Got To Give It Up” is very emotional since Phil and Scott were pretty bad junkies at this point. The first encore is a song called “Disaster” that was later retitled “Angel Of Death” with different lyrics for the Renegade album. Another interesting aspect of this show is the way they look. The satin pants and frilly shirts of the 1970’s have been replaced with leather, spikes and spandex. Phil, especially, looks like he borrowed his wardrobe from Judas Priest after the British Steel tour. Snowy White, as usual, dresses like a poor man’s Eric Clapton in sensible attire.
The sound quality of the DVD is a bit muffled at times and occasionally the video gets a bit wavy, but it looks better than the crappy bootleg VHS tapes that have been floating around for years. And at a list price of $11.98 you have no excuse not to pick it up.
ZZ Top also filmed a concert for Rockpalast in 1980 at a festival where they went on at 4 in the morning. You certainly can’t tell from the band’s kick ass performance and the crowd’s rowdy response. This show is the big selling point for the 2DVD set Double Down Live. ZZ Top was on tour supporting their 1979 album Degüello after taking a few years off from the road and the studio. This is the beginning of the giant beard era that has continued to this day.
Disc 1 is titled “Definitely Then” and the band blasts through 22 songs in about 95 minutes and the energy level never drops. ZZ Top’s pre-Eliminator albums are revered by musicians, producers and engineers for their incredible sound but live the band sounds even better. These guys like to play loud, but the sound is clear and they blast one song after another barely pausing for breath. They play most of the Degüello album including “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” “Cheap Sunglasses” and the Frank Zappa influenced “Manic Mechanic.” The rest of the set contains all the usual barn stormers – “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers,” “Heard It On The X,” “Tush,” “Just Got Paid,” “La Grange,” etc. Killer show from start to finish with great sound and visuals.
Disc 2 is called “Almost Now” and catches the band 28 years later and still sounding good. The show is a little shorter, there’s less jumping around, the voices are a little deeper but the boogie remains strong. Last year the band released the Live in Texas DVD documenting the 2007 tour and there’s very little duplication between that show and this one. The only problem with the “Almost Now” disc is that it was filmed with only 1 camera and there’s a lot of herky jerky editing between different performances. Maybe the director wanted it to look like a youtube bootleg or something. The quality is good but all the jump cuts wear thin after a few songs. There are also some interviews and backstage footage in between ever song. Personally I’d rather watch the entire show uninterrupted. Still, it’s hard to argue with great performances like “Blue Jean Blues” and a great cover of “Hey Joe.”
If you have any interest in either of these bands do yourself a favor and get these. Invite your buddies over, get sloppy drunk and rock out!
Buy here: Thin Lizzy - Are You Ready?: Live At Rockpalast
Buy here: Double Down Live