ZZ Top | Wembley Arena | London | 24 Jun 2015
Sharp Dressed Men...
Hirsute Texan blues rockers ZZ Top made a whistle-stop visit to the UK on Wednesday playing a very full looking Wembley Arena. Flanked by a pair of video screens, guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill were, true to form, resplendent in matching outfits, hats, sunglasses and foot-long beards. Nestled behind and between Gibbons and Hill sat drummer Frank Beard - still defiantly beardless - and busy driving the boogie juggernaut along.
Dusty Hill once described their show as "low movement, high impact" and that pretty much nails it. There's no gymnastic leaping, histrionics or undue haste in the band's stage presence and the only the merest hint of any choreography as when Hill and Gibbons adopt an occasional slow, Shadows-esque stroll up to the mics or sway away in unison providing crowd pleasing photo opportunities at the edge of the stage. Instead, there's just a slow and deliberate riffing that pulls you into the groove of each song getting the feet stamping and the head shaking.
After a brief video introduction, the band ambled on and opened with a terrific performance of "You've Got Me Under Pressure". The high octane start continued with "Waitin' For The Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago" before the familiar drum intro heralded the arrival of "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and the cue for the crowd to get all hot and bothered. It's hard to believe that it's over thirty years since "Eliminator" brought ZZ Top to the mainstream with their iconic videos for "Gimme All Your Lovin', "Legs" and "Sharp Dressed Man" which MTV seemed to just play on a loop - back when they actually played music videos if you can imagine such a thing.
"I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" and "Pincushion" reminded us that there's much more to the band than the cluster of hits on "Eliminator", and "I Gotsta Get Paid", the band's reworking of an old rap hit called "25 Lighters" was one of a couple of tracks from their most recent album, 2013's "La Futura". The band paid tribute to Hendrix with a run through of "Foxy Lady" and jammed through another cover, "Catfish Blues". "Cheap Sunglasses" worked the crowd up into a lather before "My Head's in Mississippi", "Chartreuse" and the set closers "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs" where the crowd went singalong crazy.
Returning for the encore, the band were joined by a fourth "hombre" in the form of guitar legend Jeff Beck, who, incredibly, was celebrating his seventy-first birthday. After being presented with a cake and accepting a glass of something bubbly the impossibly young looking Beck graced the stage for the final four songs of the evening starting with a gorgeous run through of the ballad-like "Rough Boy" from the "Afterburner" album, a number Billy Gibbons said Beck had told him was one of his favourites. A cover of "Sixteen Tons" was followed by an epic set-closing double whammy of "La Grange" and, of course, "Tush".
It was also a treat to see Thunder performing as support. Big enough to fill sizeable venues on their own merits, they had plenty of fans in the audience judging by the number of t-shirts on display and the reception they received. Their 45 minute set included favourites such as "Dirty Love", "Wonder Days", "Backstreet Symphony", "Love Walked In" and "I Love You More Than Rock 'n' Roll.
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