The blues has been an art form for decades. Just when you think it might have run its course, a band like the Black Keys or an artist like Gary Clark Jr. comes along to bring the genre back to life. Through it all, ZZ Top, that little band from Texas, has remained a constant. Last night at Hard Rock Live, frontman Billy Gibbons made a point to remind the sold out crowd of that very thing. “We’ve been coming around here for four decades,” he said in the middle of the 90-minute show. “Same three guys.” Those “same three guys” delivered a helluva show, too, as they played 18 songs with an energy and enthusiasm that belied their age (Gibbons is 65 and drummer Frank Beard and bassist Dusty Hill are 66). You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
Looking like members of a biker gang, Gibbons and Hill wore black biker jackets, sunglasses and top hats. Their trademark beards extended to the middle of their chests, and they used exhaust pipes as microphone stands. It’s a great look (and consistent with the band’s obsession with fast cars and outlaw culture. On the rousing opening number, “Got Me Under Pressure,” Hill and Gibbons expertly traded vocals. They then slowed things down for the grunge-y “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and both stood at the edge of the stage to jam for a protracted rendition of “Pincushion.”
Though Hill is technically the better singer because he can really wail, we preferred Gibbons' voice as it had more grit to it. He sounded particularly nasty on "Sharp Dressed Man" and “Cheap Sunglasses,” tunes that the guys encouraged patrons to sing along to. During “Cheap Sunglasses,” Gibbons turned his guitar upside down and rubbed it against his jacket to create a cool screeching sound. And he practically rapped his way through “Gotsta Get Paid,” a heavy number that could pass as a Black Keys tune.
For the three-song encore, the guys changed into sequined jackets as they played crowd favorites “La Grange,” “Tush” and “Sixteen Tons.”
Editor’s Note: Because of a mix-up with our tickets, we weren’t able to see Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke, who shared the bill, but we’re sure the guys kicked some serious ass in their opening set.