ZZ Top brings 5 decades of staying power to Pittsburgh show
Has it really been 50 years since the larger-than-life blues-inspired rock group ZZ Top started climbing the ladder of success that would land them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and give them staying power five decades later?
Vocalist/guitarist Billy Gibbons said there’s a good reason why “that little ol’ band from Texas” has enjoyed such overwhelming popularity over the past five decades: They love doing what they do best – and their fans do, too.
“It’s all directly attributable to the fact we enjoy doing what we get to do and it seems a ton of folk, through successive generations, have picked up on it and want more of the good times,” Gibbons says. “I guess we struck a chord, both literally and figuratively, and with that we are most thankful.”
Gibbons, along with long-time bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard (the only one of the three who is actually beardless), recently kicked off their 50th Anniversary Tour. It stops at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown for a Sept. 11 performance, with special guest Cheap Trick.
Worth the wait
The old saying about good things being worth the wait holds true in the case of ZZ Top’s long-awaited our, which got a late start due to drummer Frank Beard’s bout with pneumonia.
The first four dates of their tour that was to have started on Aug. 16 were canceled after Beard was diagnosed with the ailment – but Gibbons says they only missed four performances in Washington and British Columbia and now he’s back on the drums.
“Yes, our noble percussionista, doing well and hittin’ the skins with renewed vigor, and still the Beard who is beardless,” he says.
ZZ Top had more good news for its fans on Aug. 16 when Warner Bros. Records released “GOIN’ 50,” the group’s 3-CD ($29.98) and 5-LP ($99.98) sets.
This new collection includes songs from each of the 15 studio albums that the trio has recorded since 1970. Two bonus tracks, “Salt Lick” and “Miller’s Farm” — a single and B-side respectively — were recorded in 1969.
Gibbons says it’s not too difficult to single out a few favorites from the lineup of music on the new release.
“We tend gravitating to the opening two numbers fronting the ‘Tres Hombres’ album: ‘Waitin’ For The Bus’ and ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago,’” he says. “Following an editing slip of the splicing blade, the two songs were joined, back-to-back and became a de facto coupling.
“We became enamored with the effect and continue to deliver ‘em just like it’s pressed. It’s a combination of the sacred and secular and works well as a singular presentation,” he says.
One step ahead
As for what’s left on Gibbons’ bucket list of musical goals — either personally or as a member of ZZ Top — in upcoming months or the next year, he offers an esoteric answer.
“What’s exciting and inviting is working around the surreal elements of artistic expression,” he says. “The allure of the avant garde continues to expand. The so-called list has a peculiar way of keeping one step ahead of the hounds.”
One definite new direction in which the guys are headed with partners Caesars Entertainment is developing a jukebox musical, “Sharp Dressed Man,” scheduled to open in 2020 in Las Vegas. It’s currently in development with the trio as executive producers, according to “Variety.”
The entertainment source said, “Sharp Dressed Man” will be an “outrageous, bawdy musical romp about a Lone Star auto mechanic who becomes a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing hearts — and car parts — with the help of a merry band of beer guzzlers and hell raisers. ZZ Top standards like ‘Legs,’ ‘La Grange,’ ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ and ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ will help tell the satirical saga.”
Gibbons says the group is looking forward to seeing how the show develops.
“Fans have often told us that we’ve provided the soundtrack to their lives, and this is very much in line with that kind of enthusiastic thinking,” he says.
ZZ Top Setlist
Compiled by setlist.fm from Aug. 21 concert in Woodinville, Wash.
- Got Me Under Pressure
- I Thank You (Sam and Dave cover)
- Waitin’ for the Bus
- Jesus Just Left Chicago
- Gimme All Your Lovin’
- Pearl Necklace
- I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
- I Gotsta Get Paid
- My Head’s in Mississippi
- Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis cover)
- Beer Drinkers and Hell Raiser
- Just Got Paid
- Sharp Dressed Man
- La Grange
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.