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ZZ Top Rocked The Times Union Center

Photo by Nick Lee

Saturday was a big night for me. I got to see Dave Attell and ZZ Top. I knew that I would enjoy Dave Attell, but based on what some friends told me, I went into the ZZ Top show with some low expectations. Well, let’s just say I’m glad I went against my friend’s better judgments.

I had a couple friends tell me that they’ve seen ZZ Top both before and after the Eliminator cd and that they were 2 completely different bands. Before was great, and after… not so great. But considering I got some freebies I was going to find out for myself as I’ve always enjoyed ZZ Top and wanted to have them on ‘Bands Seen’ resume. So when we walked in I went right to the beer stand as I wasn’t going to stand and listen to their bluesy, dirty riffs without a cold one. While in line I heard “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide”. That sounded fine from where I was. Then we took our seats. And at first, I was feeling what people had told me as it just seemed a little off. They did some song from 1932 that I didn’t know, and then about a 30 second version of “My Head’s in Mississippi” that seemed to just completely fall apart. Really, it felt like they screwed it all up and just decided to stop right in the middle of it. Then, everything changed as they went into “Cheap Sunglass”, “Party on the Patio” and “Just Got Paid.” They fell into a nice groove during those 3 songs. And it was so fun to watch Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill do their sequenced dance moves while they’re jammin’ out. I’ve seen plenty of bands bang their heads and whatnot while playing, but this is different. It’s different because when Kiss and Judas Priest coordinate their moves it’s usually just during a riff. Not so with Mr. Gibbons. He’s playing a solo while he’s moving about. And these were cool solos. He stayed pretty true to all the classic solos that are so great that even people that aren’t musicians can hum them by heart. But he didn’t quite do them note for note. He added little bends, hammer-ons and extra blue notes all over the place. Truly, Billy Gibbons was fantastic.

Photo by Nick Lee

The last 3 songs of the set is what really put it over the top for me as they played “Gimme All Your Lovin”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” in a row. Many fans consider this part of the synthesizer stage and where they lost their edge, but the ‘Eliminator’ cd (and it’s videos) is how I, and many others found out about ZZ Top. This stuff came out when MTV was setting the world on fire. During these 3 songs they also showed many clips from those videos too, which definitely brought a lot us back to the days when we loved MTV. It was at this point that I said to myself “My God, how old are these guys?” This stuff came out almost 30 years ago and they looked like old men then! As it turns out, all three are in their very early 60’s. So in actuality, they were only about 32 or so when Eliminator was released. Boy, those beards sure made them look a lot older than that back then. What a great shtick though. It’s given them the illusion of being able to play since forever.

The encore is a little hazy for me. I know they jammed out on ‘La Grange’ and they might have mixed in another song or 2 with it, but I got a little lost in the pictures they were showing of themselves on the big screen from the old days. They showed pictures of them without beards. It was shocking because as a somewhat casual fan, I’ve never seen them bare faced. You kind of almost thought that these guys might have been born with beards. One shot that will always stay with me was of them and Jimi Hendrix together. Just seeing thsoe photos alone was worth walking in for.

So, what about my friends that said ZZ Top didn’t have it anymore? I don’t know, perhaps they had a lull some years back. Maybe they both saw them on an off night. Maybe they didn’t stick around long enough fof them get into it. I’ll never really know. One thing’s for sure though, they were rockin’ on Saturday night and for that ZZ Top, ‘I Thank You’.

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