For most bands longevity means staying together long enough to put out a second or, if lucky, a third album; but for ZZ Top (lead vocalist and guitarist Billy Gibbons, vocalist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard) it’s forty years of fine tuning. Playing that long together has giving this band of three outstanding cohesion. There is no struggle, no one man standing out, the musical blend is so perfect that the music soars seamlessly. Dusty HIll’s swift fingers churn out guitar riffs so complicated it’s literally jaw dropping, and yet he makes it look as easy as breathing.
The continued success of this group is not only due to their cohesive sound, but also the blend of styles they incorporate. You can hear the influence of their early Texan Blues roots; but they’ve managed to pick-up decade trends along the way, including 70’s style rock guitar, and 80’s style pop lyrics and catchy tunes. Their ability to pull the best from each era has earned them their fame, and they played all of the audience’s classic favorites including “Foxy Lady,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’, ” as well as the newest hit “Flyin’ High,” which they wrote for the International Space Station.
ZZ Top’s unique music is somewhat oddly pared with their standoff style which includes an aloof attitude, long beards, sunglasses, and hats. This style is a blessing and a curse for the band. It keeps them both looking and sounding timeless, yet impedes their ability to relate to the audience. Though the tunes were sharp, their lack of charisma left the audience very subdued. They hardly spoke, and since their faces are hidden it’s almost impossible to get a sense of personality. With a little bit of address or inducement the audience could have easy been coaxed into cheering and dancing. Instead, the audience mostly sat in their seats while ZZ Top played to video images in the background. Some of these were fitting, such as their past music video of “Sharp Dressed Man,” but others seemed oddly matched and filmed under-budget. Though perhaps the video montage wasn’t the best choice, the superb musicianship and classic tunes rose above, and this trio is still well worth the ticket price. It you want to hear timeless, skilled, cohesive rock/blues music, be sure to catch them next time round.
Running Time: Two and a half hours.
ZZ TOP played for one night, September 11th, 2013 at the Filene Center at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts – 1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future events, check out theirCalendar of Events.