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Pop and Jazz Reviews : ZZ Top Fleshes Out Its Body of Boogie

August 22, 1994|STEVE APPLEFORD

The blues-rock boogie of ZZ Top cries out for just one thing: near-naked women to dance around the guys onstage. Or that's the impression the veteran Texas trio left at the Forum on Saturday, mixing its raw riffing with a leering stage show.

ZZ Top was perfectly willing to enlist the use of taped saxes and synthesizers, but couldn't do without the help of six women dancers in thongs who were more visible onstage than drummer Frank Beard. These female caricatures came to the aid of a band now a quarter-century-old that still seems to have more faith in crass showbiz than its own music.

It's always been ZZ Top's commitment to the roughest sort of white-boy blues that mattered, not the bearded cartoon characters they became with their discovery by MTV. At their best, guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and Beard coalesced at the Forum into an unstoppable, alluring rock force.

Both Gibbons and Hill kept their matching, black, leather jackets on for the duration, beards swaying, as they marched in step across the stage and mixed old hits ("La Grange") with songs from their new "Antenna" album. The band also did "Viva Las Vegas"--the worst version yet, but another good excuse to bring out the dancers again. This time they were in glittery Vegas show outfits, with feather boas and top-heavy headdresses, as if Gibbons' ribald fretwork didn't say enough already.

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