ZZ Top Rocks Victoria

Originally published in CVV Magazine on April 10, 2016

Legendary Texas rockers ZZ Top played the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Friday, April 8.

The two boys from Texas came on to a stage lit by a huge LED backdrop to look like a starry night, and two massive stacks of white, pink, and green speakers on either side of drummer Frank Beard’s impressive double-kick-drum Tiki-themed kit.

Photos by Dean Kaylan

With no introduction from main man Billy Gibbons, they jumped right into it, opening with Eliminator’s “Got Me Under Pressure.” ZZ Top is arena-filling rock at its very best—that fat guitar sound and strong rhythm section makes you feel a sense of excitement and anticipation, like when a hockey team first skates out onto the ice. It’s the reason politicians will often use classic rock to pump people up for rallies, or as exit music to keep people excited to vote after they’ve left the stage.

But there’s nothing political about ZZ Top; their best songs speak purely to the people. “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” from their classic 1973 album Tres Hombres in some ways epitomize the group’s bluesy, soulful sound. “Are you having a good time?” Gibbons growled at the audience in his deep, hoarse voice before launching into another big Eliminator single, “Gimme All Your Lovin.’”

Gibbons and his bass-playing counterpart and doppelganger Dusty Hill had some corny dance moves, though, for some of the coolest-looking rockers alive, and much of their set consisted of them trying to communicate, side by side, and then swinging their guitars back and forth in sync as they played. Gibbons had tried to modernize his look with some skinny jeans and a fitted leather jacket, but the choreographed dance moves ended up making them look less than cool.

“I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” and “Pincusion” segued into “I Gotsta Get Paid” and “Flying High” from 2012’s La Futura, the latter sounding strangely like a classic 80s pop hit. The trio then played a couple of killer covers—namely Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” and then took it down a notch to “play some blues” in what turned out to be a cover of Robert Petway’s “Catfish Blues.” The band then finished their set with a barrage of hits, including Degüello’s “Cheap Sunglasses,” and perhaps their best known song, “Sharp Dressed Man,” also from 1983’s Eliminator.

The band closed out their regular set with “Legs,” but came back on quite quickly to raucous cheers from the crowd to play an encore performance of “La Grange,” a favorite for many Top fans. They stopped mid-performance, inciting more cheers from the audience, before playing an extended version of the song that is often referred to as “Sloppy Drunk Jam.” They finished their performance with “Tush,” the last track from 1975’s Fandago! leaving the audience with the sentiment “Lord, take me downtown / I’m just lookin’ for some tush.”

Overall, ZZ Top’s second-ever performance in Victoria was a success, and fans were treated to all the greatest hits the Texas rockers have in their canon, albeit with some corny dance moves. However, even after all these years, they’ve still somehow managed to stay cool.

Check out the full set-list below.

1. Got Me Under Pressure
2. Waitin’ for the Bus
3. Jesus Just Left Chicago
4. Gimme All Your Lovin’
5. I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
6. Pincushion
7. I Gotsta Get Paid
8. Flyin’ High
9. Foxy Lady (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
10. Catfish Blues (Robert Petway cover)
11. Cheap Sunglasses
12. My Head’s in Mississippi
13. Chartreuse
14. Sharp Dressed Man
15. Legs

Encore:

16. La Grange / Sloppy Drunk Jam
17. Tush

James Blake: “Timeless”

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James Blake “Timeless” begins with a slow build that is as soulful as it is smooth. Over it, Blake croons “I can’t be selfless / I’m acting my age,” the most concrete lyrics he gives us in the 4:00 long track, which premiered on his BBC Radio 1 residency. Blake is preparing to release a new album, and “Timeless” gives fans a lot to look forward to. The blend of styles Blake creates here is phenomenal, as the track builds from minimalist electronic production to a hard synth-line that mirrors trap and current hip-hop sounds, all while weaving in textures and lines that conjure everything from modern soul to Middle Eastern guitar music. But when the alarm sounds midway through the track it ironically makes “Timeless” sound not so timeless at all – it’s the moment of the drop, an extremely current and in many ways dying trend in music. “Timeless,” then, comes as a subtle comment on the current state of electronic music from one of it’s best and, arguably, one of its most likely candidates to stand the test of time.

Kaytranada: “Glowed Up” (feat. Anderson .Paak)

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Kaytranada’s “Glowed Up” begins with a spacey, alien-sounding intro before the beat comes in behind Anderson .Paak’s smooth, rambunctious flow. “I’m glowed up” he repeats through much of the song, perhaps referencing his recent string of guest appearances following his major-label debut Malibu. “Lately I’ve been glowed up… Feeling like the only one out here / Even if I slowed up / Got enough purp to last the whole damn night here” he sings over the track’s prominent big synth line, giving it an anthemic chorus. But then the track takes off in a new direction, and the bassy, jazzy, Flying Lotus-esque bridge/outro gives .Paak a chance to reflect on his fame and success. “Not just another name / Not just some wannabe,” he sings, and you have to agree that Anderson .Paak is pretty well here to stay – Malibu is still the best album of the year so far. But teaming up with Kaytranada here takes his talents to another level, backed by slick production and one of the most interesting beats of the year, recalling the production on Outkast’s ATLiens and updating it to rival that of Drake’s most recent work.

The Range: Potential

The-Range-Potential-hi-resJames Hinton’s second album as The Range is a concept fully realized; a stunning amalgamation of masterful production with vocals by unknown artists from the deepest corners of YouTube. And while an album about undiscovered YouTube stars called Potential might seem corny to some, Hinton captures the current cultural moment—with its wealth of burgeoning musical talent and seemingly arbitrary nature of success in the music industry—perfectly, weaving together stories that speak to the difficulty of “making it” as a musician and the potential that we all have for greatness.

“Regular” introduces this tension between struggle and success underlying the album. “Right now / I don’t have a backup plan for if I don’t make it,” the speaker repeats a capella, as the production builds in the background. “I’ll just decide to move on to something bigger and better,” he says as the bass drops off behind him. It’s easy to forget that all the vocals on this album have been taken from YouTube videos, and weren’t recorded in a studio on top of production that was already there; rather, Hinton built tracks around the vocals, blending any unwanted background noise into the texture of his production.

And the textures he weaves together here are gorgeous. Multi-layered synths and pads create a bigger, brighter, and more polished sound than 2013’s Nonfiction. Nonfiction was one of the best electronic albums of that year, voted as such by critics and individual listeners alike. But Potential is James Hinton’s biggest statement to date. “Copper Wire” is the embodiment of this bigger, more sparkling sound. It comes in with a huge synth line, and the lyrics “All I’m trying to do from a young age / trying to get paid / But we’re all grown up / And everything’s changed.” You can picture the kid in the video, barely 9 years old, when he sings “09 was emotional / It’s a memory / I wish that everything was the same / talking like we can make it rain on a sunny day.” It clearly stuck with Hinton too, as he puts him front and center here.

Florida” was the first single released from the album, featuring a teenage girl’s YouTube Ariana Grande cover, but you wouldn’t know that from the finished product. Hinton uses her flawless, studio-quality sounding vocals as the hook on top of a tropical beat complete with steel drums and ear-shattering UK-style bass. I predict it won’t be long before Hinton finds himself playing shows with the likes of Jamie xx and other like-minded producers like Mount Kimbie and King Krule. Other highlights from the album include “Five Four,” the second single previously released alongside a touching and well-crafted music video that solidifies the album’s strong concept visually.

The second half of the album is just as good as the first, and track 8, “Skeptical,” is a clear highlight. Hinton’s affinity with East London rappers in particular is accentuated here, although the range of rappers and vocalists he draws upon span many different backgrounds, cultures, and generations. Potential’s defining message is clear and writ large: everyone has enormous potential, and learning about the stories and struggles of others only makes our own potential for greatness that much bigger. IDM, electronic, whatever you want to call it: Hinton’s conceptual vision on Potential has the power to shake up the genre—and change the way future stars get made.

Introducing: Koji.

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Koji. is an up-and-coming producer from New Zealand who dabbles in blissed-out beats and serene synths. He has almost 10,000 followers on his SoundCloud, and is quickly rising. His track “Lotus” has over 300,000 plays and is endorsed by The XXX Artist Intelligence Agency.

“Lotus” is emblematic of Koji.’s production style, which blends deep house sounds with hip-hop and trap-influenced beats and vocals from both singers and rappers.

His most recent track, “Honest,” is a smooth and soulful gem that fans of Marcus Marr & Chet Faker’s recent Work – EP will find a natural affinity with.

“The Motions” further shows of Koji.’s abilities as an instrumental producer, in line with artists like Slow Magic and Aussie producer Flume, a clear influence.

Listen to more of Koji.’s tropical beats and synth-washed tracks over at his SoundCloud, embedded below:

Enjoy~