The bowl was full for the bearded ones. Texas veteran blues-rockers ZZ Top served up a mess of their brand of down home boogie at the MTS concert bowl Thursday night to a near full house.
Guitarist Billy Gibbons formed the band in 1969 and his guitar playing caught the attention of Jimi Hendrix who said, on the Tonight Show, that “Billy’s the next hottest guitarist.” It’s rumoured that Jimi gave Billy the pink Stratocaster he had been playing as a token of his appreciation of his level of talent.
In the beginning, ZZ Top consisted of Lanier Greig on organ and Dan Mitchell on drums. The band recorded one single after which Lanier was replaced by bassist Billy Etheridge, who played with Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Frank Beard took over on drums. Soon after, Billy Etheridge quit, Dusty Hill assumed bass duties and the Texas power trio we now know and love released their debut LP, ZZ Top’s First Album in 1971.
Fifteen albums later, the band is still going strong.
The band decided to take 90 days off in 1976 after the Tejas album. The break lasted until 1979, after which they returned to the studio to record Deguello.
During the break, Dusty and Billy seemed to have misplaced their shavers and by the time they recorded their biggest selling album (10 million copies) Eliminator in 1983, the band became huge (thanks also to four videos from the album that were in heavy rotation). This album was a big change in their sound as it was their first album to use synthesizers.
In 2004, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Keith Richards delivering the induction speech.
After a strange kind of opening (2 movie promos), the band started cooking with ‘Got Me under Pressure‘ followed by two of my personal favourites from 1973’s Tres Hombres album ‘Waitin’ For The Bus‘ and ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago‘ where Billy threw in the line “then He got smart and came to Winnipeg.”
It’s rather funny because when they were last here in June of 2010, they started off the show with the same three tunes and Billy made the same reference to Winnipeg. In fact, of the 17 songs they played this time, 11 were the same as the 2010 tour. I don’t think anyone minded though, because the fans went wild after the first few riffs of those classic ZZ Top tunes.
They did two cover tunes in the middle of their 80 minute show. Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady‘ had the audience singing along and Muddy Waters’ ‘Catfish Blues‘ was an acknowledgement to their blues roots and a tip of the hat to the prolific blues great who has influenced so many over the years.
Of course, the bearded ones (even Frank Beard was sporting a beard for once) did their four Eliminator hits ‘Got Me Under Pressure‘ ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man‘ and ‘Legs’ (where they pulled out their famous fuzzy guitars).
Not a lot of flash and gimmicks at a ZZ show, just some good old, down home delta blues and hard rocking good times. Two video screens on each side of the stage showed some vintage videos of the band through the years, as well as the famous ZZ Top car (that took 6 years to build) and beautiful women.
There was also some pretty cool animated videos of guitar playing skeletons. What more could you ask for.
Another reference to Winnipeg in the song ‘My Head’s in Mississippi‘ got the expected cheers from the crowd. Two songs from the Rick Rubin produced album, 2012’s Futura were also played ‘I Gotsta Get Paid‘ and ‘Chartreuse‘ (which kind of started off like ‘Tush’). Rubin was a good choice for this album as they seem to have returned to their raw earlier sound.
For the encore, they returned to the stage after a wardrobe change and pulled out the old standards ‘La Grange‘ and ‘Tush‘. Before they left, they took a bow with their dog. Every band should have a mascot.
Opening band, Flash Lightning from Toronto, was formed in 2008. This trio definitely was influenced by ZZ Top and have played at Times Changed bar a few times over the years. Many in the audience were familiar with the band’s songs. Guitarist/vocalist, Darren Glover, said, “It’s an honour and a dream come true to be playing with ZZ Top.”
The tour took the band to Brandon the previous night and they were off to Moose Jaw on Friday. I asked the one of the crew whether the band was flying to their shows but he told me that “they’re bussing it, they like it that way.” They’re bad, they’re nationwide, in their ‘Cheap Sunglasses’.
SETLIST (Mar. 13, 2014)
Got Me Under Pressure
Waitin’ for the Bus
Jesus Just Left Chicago
Gimme All Your Lovin’
I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
I Gotsta Get Paid
Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
Catfish Blues (Muddy Waters cover)
My Head’s in Mississippi
Sharp Dressed Man
La Grange (with Sloppy Drunk & Bar B Q Jam)
All photos by Doug Kretchmer