ZZ Top at Myth, 8/6/13
Photo by Tony Nelson
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
You could blame it on age, the sound system or the overpriced Straw-Ber-Itas at the Myth Nightclub, but it felt like the grinding verve and soulful kick of ZZ Top was lacking last night. For a seemingly packed house that came in soaking from the rain, once they took the stage it certainly took a while for ZZ Top to really get going during the short, 80-minute run-through of nuggets from the band's impressive catalog of boogie-rock barn-burners. Missing a sense of urgency and aggressive spirit coupled with the audience's non-reaction during most of the performance hammered home the fact that after all, it indeed was a school night. Then eventually as the heat came on and the audience loosened up, the show was over.
However, you had to hand it to the boys from Texas for keeping the machine going for 40+ years and the show was not without it highlights and good cheer. For most of the set, guitarist Billy Gibbons, his seemingly identical bass player Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard performed astutely -- delivering hit after hit in their trademark style of riff-driven shuffling classic rock and essentially gave the packed Myth what they came for.
Flanked by two large video screens, the stage darkened as some odd drum and bass techno intro music allowed time for ZZ Top to come out as they ripped into "Got Me Under Pressure" from perhaps their most popular record, 1983's Eliminator which provided a glimpse at what was to come.
Wearing matching purple guitars and glimmering nudie suits with rose designs, Gibbons and Hill commanded the stage with their iconic beards. Diving deep with his slithering guitar licks and smoking voice Gibbons vocals sounded buried in the mix but was thoroughly accompanied by the audience. They sang along and slowly found their way grooving to Frank Beard's solid beat. Finding their own rhythm, Gibbons and Hill would hit their parts in a succinct display while moving together in unison.
Photo by Tony Nelson
"Once again we got wise and came all the way up to Minnesota, Ya know what I'm talking about!" Gibbons mouthed off to a round of applause.
With effortless guitar wailing solo after solo, Gibbons's chops were on full display during a couplet from one of the band's best, 1973's Tres Hombres, "Waitin' For the Bus" flowing right into "Jesus Left Chicago" just as it did on the classic LP.
"Give the drummer a little bit right about now!" Gibbons demanded as Beard pounded his drums, adorned with skulls bringing the set back into the '80s with the unmistakable beat to "Gimme All Your Lovin'." As ZZ Top is only a trio, unlike other classic rock outfits (ie: the Rolling Stones), it's admirable they stick to the straight lineup and don't augment the performance with multiple session players. But it was hard not to notice the missing production and synth elements in some of their biggest radio hits. All the while the crowd didn't seem to care as the crowd predictably started to really feel the music.
In his Southern drawl Gibbons seemed to be having a lot of fun, "Are we having a good time? We've hung out with y'all for four decades. Same three guys, same four chords." After introducing the band and counting off, ZZ Top played a couple cuts from the band's latest record, last year's surprisingly great La Futura with "I Gotsta Get Paid" and "Flyin' High." However it felt that an energy was lacking with the perhaps lesser known material and crowded floor in the club seemed to resort to chatting and taking camera phone pictures.
Photo by Tony Nelson
Steadily, ZZ Top worked its way back into their older tracks -- going way back to their first record with "Certified Blues." That nicely broke into Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and regained the audience's attention, particularly with Gibbons's explosive blues-based guitar work.
Knowing his audience Gibbons suggested, "How about a song about drinking liquor!?" With their ode to one of their favorites, "Chartreuse," again from La Futura the band gained steam as the video screen displayed spinning whiskey glasses with a stage glowing deep green. It almost made up for the Myth's overpriced drinks.
What finally got the audience really going, the band switched up their guitars for big white fuzzy ones for a double shot of "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs" which were perfectly accompanied with the time-honored videos. When comparing their look in the classic clips ZZ Top, though a couple decades older, didn't look much different under their cheap sunglasses and flowing beards.
Changing into different suits for the encore, ZZ Top came back out with more Classic Rock radio staples and Gibbons unmistakable soaring blues leads on "Tube Snake Boogie" and a grinding "La Grange." With Dusty Hill taking over lead, "Tush" moved and grooved, sounding just as electric as the original record and put things over the top for the crowd.
This honestly would have made for the perfect finale but as the set ran through in somewhat of a hurry the band obliged the room with a second encore with Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" which didn't necessarily turn anyone off but seemed frivolous and redundant at best.
Critic's Bias: Was really torn between last night's ZZ Top show and the Cult performing Electric at the Varsity.
The Crowd: Lots of Sturgis T-Shirts and E-Cigarettes
Overheard in the Crowd: "What's with those ugly people making out the whole time?!"
Random Notebook Dump: What? No "Cheap Sunglasses"!? I should have gone to the Varsity.
Got Me Under Pressure
Waitin' for the Bus
Jesus Just Left Chicago
Gimme All Your Lovin'
I Gotsta Get Paid
Heartache in Blue
My Head's in Mississippi
Sharp Dressed Man
Tube Snake Boogie
La Grange / Sloppy Drunk Jam
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