ZZ Top's effects don't get in way of the blues

January 14, 1991|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

ZZ Top may describe itself as "that little old band from Texas," but there was nothing small-scale about its performance at the Capital Centre last night.

It wasn't enough that the band built its own personal auto graveyard on stage; there was also a working electromagnetic crane, a car compactor and perhaps the most pulchritudinous construction workers imaginable to make it all work.

Yet, no matter how spectacular the effect, the staging never detracted from the central focus: the blues.

From the classic slow grind "Jesus Left Chicago" to the modern abstractions of "My Head's in Mississippi," the group worked its way through almost every imaginable permutation of the blues. Or, to put it more accurately, ZZ Top kept a sense of the blues in everything it played.

There was a similar sensibility at work in the show-opening set by the Black Crowes, even though this band's milieu was more properly straight-ahead rock and roll.

Above all, what the Crowes offered was groove, that driving boogie-based pulse which at its best recalled the early '70s heyday of bands like The Faces or the Rolling Stones. Though at times the resemblance was a little too close -- toothpick-thin Chris Robinson sometimes strutted across the stage as if he were auditioning for the lead role in "The Rod Stewart Story."

Overall, however, the band's performance was as sincere as it was spirited.

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