Within a fleeting music industry pillaged of its earnings due to the irresistible influence of the Internet, some relief comes to us in the decline of the ‘overnight sensation’ which record labels are now reluctant to invest their withering dollars in. Yet, for the past two decades Baby Boomers have longed to feel a certain connection to a band, only to have their allegiance left in the wake of its rapid demise. Consequently, with even veteran groups disbanding today over creative differences and opting to carry on through often failed member changes, fans are certainly challenged in maintaining their loyalty.
Celebrating their 41st year gracing many a rock 'n' roll stage is the institution that is ZZ Top. Moulded in 1969, ‘that little ol’ band from Texas’ is today hailed as the second longest running band with its original members still intact since The Four Tops whose legacy prevailed from 1953 until the unfortunate death of Lawrence Payton in 1997.
With their image as unforgettable as their music, the All-American blues trio stylishly rocked the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Transforming the Memorial Cup-winning home of the Windsor Spitfires from a hockey stadium to a southern-style backyard keg party, the band commanded their rock ‘n’ roll fraternity to abide by two critical rules. Rule #1: There will be no drinking of alcohol during the playing of gospel songs. Rule #2: There will be no playing of gospel songs.
Opening the evening with “Sharp Dressed Man” co-front men Billy Gibbons (guitar/vocals) and Dusty Hill (bass/vocals) certainly practiced what they were preaching. Garnished in slick black suits, headdress and signature sunglasses, they and drummer Frank Beard surprisingly covered a broad range of their impressive catalogue that evening. Though their song-writing style changed from a departure of blues-based rock in the 70’s to chorus-strong pop hits of the 80’s, the music performed live allowed for the break to appear seamless.
From sheik fur-covered guitars to a spectacular skull-laden drum kit, memorable hits followed one another as Gibbons and Hill strutted their synchronized dance steps to many of their chart-toppers. With the commercially accepted “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Legs” appealing to women in the crowd, the more brawny “Cheap Sunglasses”, “Tush” and “La Grange” provided the pure muscle power which truly drives this band. With the surprise addition of the Hendrix classic “Hey Joe”, Gibbons saluted his idol as the legend’s image graced the screen behind the band. Conversely, the iconic 60’s prodigy considered Gibbons his favourite guitar player.
With their famed chest-length beards as long as their illustrious career, ZZ Top has contradicted the myth and discovered the key to longevity in a turbulent industry. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, all now 60, embark on their European leg of the tour in July and return to the U.S. with dates in August as well as September where they will be sharing the stage with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. So go out and get yourself some thick black frames and catch those ‘tres hombres’ as they continue to reign “Bad and Nationwide”.