“Back in the Ak — it feels good,” said ZZ Top singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons at the start of last night’s sold-out show at the Akron Civic Theatre. “We’ve been coming around here for four decades — same three guys, same three chords.” Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill even sported the same two beards, though they have a bit more gray in them these days. But that, in effect, was a good summary of ZZ Top’s appeal. Over the course of four decades, the self-described “little ol’ band from Texas” has remained a constant in the ever-shifting rock universe. While their new album, La Futura, represents a bit of a departure as producer Rick Rubin got the guys to play with a bit of a mean streak, last night, they didn’t deviate from their tried and true blues-rock sound.
The trio opened the show with their cover of “I Thank You” and then proceeded to mine the best songs from their back catalogue. Gibbons described “I Gotsta Get Paid,” one of only a few new tracks they played, as a “hip-hop song from Houston,” but it didn’t sound out of place next to “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Vincent Price Blues,” the two songs that followed. The guys stopped in the middle of “My Head’s in Mississippi” to encourage the enthusiastic audience to sing-a-long but then struggled a bit with “Stages,” a song that tried too hard to deliver a pop hook. They got back on track with “Sharp-Dressed Man” and “Legs.” As if to prove how little they’ve changed, they whipped out the covered-in-faux-fur guitars for the song and even showed clips from the original music video.
And then just as the band and crowd were getting properly warmed up, the set ended. The guys returned for a killer three-song encore that included “Tube Snake Boogie,” “La Grange” and “Tush.” Too bad they couldn’t have stretched the show out for another half hour. On its feet for most of the show, the audience would have definitely been up for it.