Famed Texas Trio Provide Fitting Fan Tribute To Dusty Hill
Jeff Walker, Entertainment Review
With the passing of bassist Dusty Hill just two months prior, many assumed classic rockers ZZ Top would call it quits, however founding members Billy Gibbons (guitar & vocals) and drummer Frank Beard have stated, Dusty would have wanted them to rock on especially for long time followers. And now with 30 year guitar tech Elwood Francis rounding out the threesome, ZZ Top continue to blaze rock n’ roll concert trails across America.
Tuesday night (Sept 28th), before a couple thousand fans, the band blew the roof off the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. For over 90 minutes with extended versions of their arsenal of hits, the power rock trio took audience members on a musical journey back to the 1970’s and 80’s, offering up a Texas sized boogie-filled baby boomer soundtrack, ripe with grungy roadhouse blues.
1983’s multi-platinum ‘Eliminator’ album provided several of the band’s hits, with ZZ Top opening with a raucous rendition of ‘Got Me Under Pressure’. Keeping the bluesy sound rolling on, they quickly followed with their well received rhythm and blues cover of Sam & Dave’s ‘I Thank You’ which became ZZ Top’s second ever Top 40 song, making it all the way to number 34 during the heavily trafficked 1979 disco era.
Before he introduced his fellow band mates, Billy gave a shout out to Dusty, and asked if Charleston was ready to get loud, and ready to rock. Just two songs into their 16 song set Billy had the crowd eating out of his hands. With opening remarks out of the way, he and the boys rolled back 48 years as they offered up two obscure, but welcome tracks ‘Waitin’ for the Bus’ and ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago’ from their third release ‘Tres Hombres’ (1973).
‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ brought the crowd up to 80’s radio speed, and provided a nice segue way into ‘Pearl Necklace’, a song from 1981’s ‘El Loco’ album. Although it was never released as a single due to its double entendre lyrics, the familiar track has become a ZZ Top concert standard for 40 plus years, and fans eat it up when performed live.
With the crowd fully submerged into the guitar riffs, ZZ Top took the boogie & blues up a notch with Frank priming the pump for ‘I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide’ kicking off a five song set that included an energized rendition of the country classic ‘Sixteen Tons’, before they wound down with the harder-edged rock sound of ‘Just Got Paid Today’ from 1972’s ‘Rio Grande Mud’. Age has not slowed Billy down, as he worked the stage and his collection of guitars to perfection.
Mid 80’s hits ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ and ‘Legs’ which introduced ZZ Top to the first generation of MTV got the entire auditorium on their feet, as the Texas trio were building to a climactic and sentimental finale. After thanking fans for their support for more than five decades, they exited the stage only too return to give diehard followers an explosive sweet taste of ‘Brown Sugar’, diving full throttle into ‘La Grange’ perhaps one of the most played classic rock songs of all time.
Hill may have gone on to jam with musicians in ‘rock n’ roll heaven’, but his spirit can still be felt right here on earth. Using a pre-recorded track ZZ Top were able to wrap up their show with a salute to ‘the Dust’, ending with ‘Tush’, a top 20 hit from their 1975 album ‘Fandango’. The song is a crowd favorite and one of a select few Hill sang lead on over ZZ Top’s 50 year career.
As the ‘A Celebration of ZZ Top‘ tour continues from city to city, it’s a great way for fans to say goodbye to the famed bass player. Dusty Hill’s memory will live on and judging by the crowd’s reaction ZZ Top will continue to rock long and well into the future.
If you’re one of the biggest musical triple threats on the planet, it’s only fitting the threesome Big Damn Band open the show for you. With songs like ‘Pot Roast and Kisses’, the bluesy, folk rock, Americana band out of Indiana lead by the right Reverend J. Peyton, alongside his wife the Breezy Elizabeth on washboard, and drummer Max Senteney set the mood for ZZ Top. The larger than life vocalist invited the crowd to clap, stomp, and shout out during ‘Clap Your Hands’ which easily got everyone revved up for the main attraction. Like me, if you haven’t heard of Big Damn Band, check them out online.
Billy and Frank may be the other side of 70, but make no mistake they are masters of their instruments and know how to throw a rock n’ roll party. The sheer fact that ZZ Top can play everything from rock, blues, R&B, folk, country, and Texas boogie is the very reason they were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. 51 years after they embarked on their musical legacy, ZZ Top are still as electrifying on stage as ever, and like smooth Texas whiskey they get better with age.
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