Posted on 6/21/2011
Written by James Downing
When I was 15 years old my dad got me a job riding in an 18 wheeler on a route with a guy and helping him unload boxes at each of his stops in Tennessee and Kentucky. One thing made me excited about this job was that the truck driver had 2 boxes of eight track tapes that he carried with him on his route each day. I could not wait to see what he had in the box. The first morning of the job I asked if I could look at his tapes. When I opened the first box he reached over and pulled out a tape and said something like “Let’s go down to Texas.” I told him I had better call my parents if we were going to Texas because they just thought that we were going to Kentucky. He laughed and said “No man, this is ‘That Little Ole Band From Texas’ ZZ Top, you ever heard them?” I told him no as he pushed the tape into the player and the first song that played was “Just Got Paid” I was a fan after that first song. After that day I listened to the local FM station and heard a lot of songs by ZZ Top and found out they were very popular. I went to several of their shows and loved their music more with each album.
In the 80′s, MTV helped to push them to super star status with the release for the classic “Eliminator” album and the singles “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’.” In fact, the last time I saw them was on “The Eliminator Tour” but I still listened to their music. I got really excited to find out they were playing the brand new Woods Amphitheater At Fontanel in Nashville on their current tour and got a ticket the first day they went on sale.
The stage for this show was very simple. In the middle was Frank Beard’s drum set, which was decorated all over with skulls from top to bottom. There were two guitar stands on either side of the drum kit for Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill’s guitars. Three speakers were on each side of the drums as well. That was pretty much it. A far cry from the “World Wide Texas Tour” of the 70′s but there are hardly any bands from that era that travel with as an elaborate stage as they did back then.
One song had been going through my head the day of the show and that song was “Under Pressure.” It was one of my favorites by ZZ Top and I really hoped that did it at some point during the show. As the sun set behind the stage at The Wood Amphitheater Billy, Frank, and Dusty strolled out from the left side of the stage. Frank sit down behind the drums while Billy and Dusty picked up their guitars… and to my amazement started the show with “Under Pressure.” From the first note of this classic song the crowd of close to 4,500 rose to their feet where they stayed for the next hour and forty minutes. Without uttering a single word the second song was “Waiting For The Bus“ from the “Tres Hombres” album. If you closed your eyes you would have thought you had be magically transported back to the 70′s. These three guys sounded just as good as they did back then. They are as tight as ever and even the vocals were spot on. They followed that song with “Jesus Just Left Chicago“ much to the crowd’s approval.
Billy Gibbons told the crowd how they had just finished up a tour of Europe and they were very happy to be back home in the states. He went on to say he was watching the crowd as they came in and saw a lot of girls in shorts and a lot of guys with beers in their hands. He then added that 90% of their songs are all about that so they might have to stay all night! Believe me, the crowd would not have minded one bit it they did.
They continued with their set as they pulled one out of the 1979 album “Degüello, “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.” After this familiar number Billy said, “Mind if we do some blues?” The crowd shouted their approval. “I need a technician to bring me my ‘Blues Hat’, I love my little African hat but in order to play the blues I need a blues hat.” A beautiful lady, who Billy called Alley Cat, strutted out on stage and presented him with his “Blues Hat.” Then the band did the Willie Brown song “Future Blues“ and followed with a song that turned into a sing a long, “Cheap Sunglasses.” Then they played just a short clip of another one of my favorite ZZ Top songs, “My Head’s In Mississippi.” I am not sure why they didn’t do the whole song, but looking at their set lists from the Internet (it is the same for most shows on this tour), they had a long list to perform.
They brought out, “I Need You Tonight“ from 1983′s multi-million selling album “Eliminator”. I was really surprised by the next song. Billy said he wanted to pay tribute to Jimi Hendrix and the band broke into “Hey Joe.” The next song was from “ZZ Top’s First Album”, “Brown Sugar.” Billy then announced the next song by saying “Let’s have a ‘Party On The Patio.‘”
A roadie brought Billy a Les Paul out they did that very first song that I heard in that truck 30 plus years ago, “Just Got Paid.” Billy said that they wanted to feature the drummer on this next song. Frank started pounding a beat and after a few moments Billy and Dusty started the familiar riff that starts the song that helped shoot their popularity into the stratosphere, “Gimme All Your Lovin” followed by a couple more hits from their MTV heyday “Sharp Dressed Man“ and “Legs.” The band left the stage but the crowd wasn’t about to let them end it there. They clapped and yelled “ZZ TOP, ZZ TOP, ZZ TOP……” until the 3 piece band returned to the stage for an encore or two. They revisited the 70′s one more time with the two classic songs “La Grange” and “Tush.” After this Billy, Dusty and Frank waved goodbye, said their thank yous and left the stage for the final time.
ZZ Top is one of only a hand full of bands that I can think of that have the very same members that they did back when they first started out. You could not replace any member of this band and still call it ZZ Top. Each member brings something to the trio that cannot be replaced. I really enjoyed seeing “That Little Ole Band From Texas” again after many years and they sounded as good as ever!
On the Concert Blast scale I will have to give this show a 9. I am taking a point away because of foul language and a reference to marijuana that was mentioned at one point in the show.
ZZ Top has announced that they will be touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd this summer and I am willing to bet that it will be a show you will not want to miss. Don’t forget to close your eyes and remember the 70′s a time or two while you are seeing ZZ Top.
Written By James Downing
Tags: 2011, Billy Gibbons, blog, concert blast, concert review, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, James Downing, Nashvile, Southern Rock, The Woods at Fontanel, TN, ZZ Top, ZZ Top concert review, ZZ Top Setlist