ZZ Top, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express: Felt Forum, New York NY

THERE IS A certain sector of the rock audience — very young and overstimulated — that cares little about what the group onstage is accomplishing in musical terms. Rather, they view the concert hall as a party room, suitable for foot-stomping, cheering, whistling and urges to the band for even higher volume levels. Such was the crowd that came to see ZZ Top May 23, and the result, for anyone in the room not stumbling about on a variety of intoxicants, was profound discomfort accompanying a minimum of performing ability.

The three members of ZZ Top contributed all the energy they could muster, giving their audience the sort of two-dimensional exercises it had come to see. Guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill, resplendent in spangled suits, timed their playing to a coordinated series of matching dance steps, reminiscent of the “doo wop” outfits. Unfortunately, when the twosome wasn’t moving, you had to listen to the songs — an endless parade of boogie routines.

ZZ Top’s goal seemed to be, play everything as fast as you possibly can, “jes’ keep ’em dancin’.” Consequently, ‘Chevrolet’ sounded like ‘Princess Grace’, which was very similar to ‘Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers’, and on and on, punctuated by occasional calls to “Boogie, chillun.” I thought that one had surely been left behind with the close of the 1960s. Add to the endless rumbling an inability to define endings for their songs, and performance dynamics which ranged from moderate to excruciating, and it was really no wonder that approximately 40 percent of the Felt Forum’s capacity had the sense to stay away from this one.

Brian Auger, who opened the show, may well be the most underrated keyboard talent on the scene. When he took an all-too-rare lead, his fingers flew over the organ, melting notes into a breathtaking buzz. Auger exhibited his solo self particularly well in ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’, but when it came to choosing the rest of his players, he still seems uncertain to the proper direction. He allowed an average bass player solo time even lengthier than his own, and, in general, could not rouse the group to maintain the energy level recalled from earlier Auger combinations.

© Toby GoldsteinBillboard, 7 June 1975

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