Live: ZZ Top at Hard Rock Live, June 8

Live: ZZ Top at Hard Rock Live, June 8

ZZ Top
Hard Rock Live, Hollywood
Friday, June 8, 2011

Better Than: Insert beard reference here. 

Certain artists get relegated to the dusty and chilly (maybe you should bring a windbreaker, like your audience did) world of the nostalgia category. However lucky these artists are -- considering the disposable nature of music in the last 20 years -- some find it a rough position, and cope accordingly. This could mean falling off the face of the earth like Sly Stone, or having a mid-life crisis like Eric Clapton did with a Babyface Edmonds produced album and a stint man-cougar'ing the likes of Sheryl Crow. However, the ideal solution in any matter of age is to do so with grace. ZZ Top completely exemplified the perfect "age gracefully" scenario with their performance last night.

A room of baby boomers and their spawn, a handful of whom I assume

were conceived to a cassette of Eliminator, waited patiently through

the ultra-rehearsed, ultra-forgettable bar band opener until

8:33 p.m. when the beards hit the stage -- their trademark facial hair blowing proudly in the simulated wind and smokescreen

as as American flag blew atop the bridge of a battleship. I'd like to

think they represent the same thing, no?

The Texas boys stretched out and found their sea legs over the

course of the first few songs, opening with a rather hesitant rendition

of "Got Me Under Pressure," however by the fourth song, 1994's "Pin

Cushion," the trio had dug in deep and were intent on reminding everyone

in attendance just how good the best three chord blues band in the world

really is. Classic ZZ Top schtick ran rampant through the show, Billy

and Dusty's stage strutting still as in sync as ever. At one

point, a fetching young lady in lingerie brought Billy his matching

"blues hat" to counter the one Dusty wore, and yes, they even broke out a

pair of fluffy guitars towards the end of the set.


guitar aficionados on hand could rejoice in the general lack of

synth-era material as it gave The Reverend Billy G plenty of room to

bend and pinch all of the piss and vinegar out of the strings on his

custom built Bolin Gretsch style guitars while

Dusty Hill and Frank Beard held down the rhythmic fort with the utmost

of style and ease. They make it look so unbelievably easy, and more

importantly, appear to still have a very good time doing so. Never a

band to take themselves too seriously, Billy Gibbons prodded a bit at

their age, cleverly mentioning their time together with-in the guise of a

weed joke ("We've been going green for about 40 years") followed by his

introducing a Willie Brown cover as a song they had written themselves

in 1932. These guys still play their instruments very well, but it was surprising how on-point the singing was. Dusty in

particular still belts his songs out like he's earning his beer money

with his vocal chords. 

The blues-infused

greasy grooves that have been this band's bread and butter since jump

street are still potent enough to be the epitome of cool and remain free

of irony in my book, and while they may tune a little lower, and drive a

little slower, ZZ Top can still shake down a blues boogie like nobody


Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I'm an extreme guitar dork, and I own Billy Gibbon's coffee table book. 

Random Detail #1: Your Dad's new Tommy Bahama shirt looks "really sharp"

Random Detail #2: Girls look so unbearably awkward dancing by themselves to classic rock. Stop it. 

Set List: 

1: Got Me Under Pressure
2: Waitin' For The Bus
3: Jesus Left Chicago
4: Pin Cushion
5: I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide
6: Future Blues (Willie Brown)
7) Cheap Sunglasses
8) I Need You Tonight
9) Hey Joe 
10) Brown Sugar
11) Party On The Patio
12) Just Got Paid Today
13) Gimme All Your Lovin'
14) Sharp Dressed Man
15) Legs


16) La Grange
17) Tush

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