Stick around long enough, and you become what you pretended to be.
When ZZ Top formed in 1970, they were a trio of twenty-year-olds trying to capture the blues of their home state of Texas. Thousands of whiskey bottle-emptying, smoky nights later and they've filled the role they cast themselves to play.
As guitarist Billy Gibbons told the Saturday night Hard Rock Live crowd, "We been playing four decades. Same three guys right here," then pointing at his regally purple guitar, "Same three chords right here."
Their version of the blues do not consist of sad songs of loneliness, if anything ZZ Top are the clown princes of the blues, singing of woman's anatomies, good times, and pay days. They found their biggest success in the 1980s when they used a synthesizer to become a new wave band while still drawing from the same sources of inspiration. Compared to the clean cut boys of Duran Duran or Wham, they seemed lecherous old men, too gruff and bearded to get the girls even in their own videos. Now their latest album 2012's La Futura is a return to form that would have more truthfully been dubbed El Pasado, as it is a homecoming to their classic rock roots of greatness.
All three eras were represented at their sold out concert. The beardless drummer, Frank Beard, sat his kit between two large screen TVs which displayed the band's 1980s videos interspersed with new footage of tattooed vixens shooting pool. Gibbons and the equally bearded bassist Dusty Hill marched out in matching hats, cheap sunglasses, and glittery, sequined jackets. Their jackets and fancy guitars were the only frills of this no-nonsense evening. Visual displays were limited to occasionally flashing house lights; the stage was bare, save the musicians sidestepping their feet in unison. Even accounting for leaving the stage twice while the crowd chanted their band's name for encores, ZZ Top's set covered sixteen songs in a streamlined hour and fifteen minutes. When they paid tribute to Jimi Hendrix, who Gibbons once opened for by covering Foxy Lady, the TV screens remained static with a black and white photo of Jimi.
This was a night that kept the emphasis on celebrating the music of Texan smokehouses, juke joints, and strip clubs. The crowd, perhaps expecting more fluff were not active participants, keeping their keisters firmly in their seats, only coming alive twice. The first time when Billy Gibbons changed the lyrics of "My Head's in Mississippi" to instead celebrate Florida, and midway through "La Grange" when the song came to an abrupt stop. The audience cheered and gave tribute to the band's countless years of soundtracking our intoxications and highway speeding before resuming into that sinister, "A pow pow pow pow."
Finally Dusty Hill was given his chance to shine as he sang the immortal "Tush." Black and white footage of the band in their younger years flashed on to the screen -- those halcyon days when they pretended years of hard living had made their voices gravelly highlighted the now, when the act has become the truth.
Got Me Under Pressure
Waitin' for the Bus
Jesus Just Left Chicago
Gimme All Your Lovin'
I Gotsta Get Paid
Foxy Lady (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
My Head's in Mississippi
Sharp Dressed Man
Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley cover)
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