ZZ Top Keep on Ticking as ‘Tonnage’ Tour Hits Ohio: Concert Review
Less than two trips around the sun shy of their 50th year together, ZZ Top gave the sold-out crowd at the Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield, Ohio, all they could handle Saturday night.
Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard (yes, the band still has all three original members, and no, nobody ever left and had to come back for a reunion tour) delivered a tight 17-song set in front of a simple starlit backdrop, with exhaust pipe-shaped microphones serving as the only noticeable stage prop.
If your starting goal is to build a band that could function at a high level for more than five decades, ZZ Top's formula might be the one you want to follow. Unlike fellow guitar titans such as Eddie Van Halen or Angus Young, Gibbons' onstage performances never relied on high volume, fast speeds or hip-injuring acrobatics -- and his playing remains as tasteful and inventive as ever.
Plus, unlike more dramatic singing peers who run the risk of blowing out their voices or losing their upper range, Gibbons' subtle, husky growl seems to improve with age. (Of course, the catch is that you'd also need the talent and dedication to craft that the band has consistently demonstrated since forming in 1969.)
Gibbons and Hill also long ago mastered the veteran art of understated stagecraft, efficiently keeping the crowd in the palm of their hands with their now-famous series of synchronized moves, poses, fuzzy guitars and cheap sunglasses.
The band shook things up by delivering a higher-than-usual number of covers, including Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," the country standard "Sixteen Tons" and Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock." Even though we could write up a "wish they'd played" list of about 50 of their own songs, "Just Got Paid," "Heard it on the X" and "Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings" and many more all stayed on the bench for the night. But it was great to see two songs from their most recent album, 2012's La Futura, get such a strong reaction.
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