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ZZ Top Plays The Paramount

Photo by Domenic Cirone

Photo by Domenic Cirone

by Domenic Cirone

August 23, 2015

When the “Little Ol’ Band From Texas” hit the stage at The Paramount in Huntington, NY this past Sunday, they have been at it, to quote Guitarist Billy Gibbons “for over four decades and with the same three fellas”. ZZ Top brought to Long Island a ferocious hard rock, yet blues driven sound that many acts one third their age could only wish to achieve. Most important is THAT SOUND. So simple, yet so defining for not only ZZ Top but for all of Rock and Roll. Billy Gibbons’ growling yet virtuosic Guitar, Dusty Hill’s booming and often rattling Bass, and Frank Beard’s (sans actual beard of course) infectious and propulsive drumming coupled with spot on vocals from all three members, were mixed to near perfection throughout the entire 18 song set.

The band kicked off the evening like they have been for many years now with “Got Me Under Pressure” from 1983’s Eliminator album (their best-selling album of all time). As usual, it got the crowd to their feet and had them singing along to the chorus in no time. Beard’s double bass drum kit lit up the stage and was flanked on either side by larger than life video screens showing the band’s music videos throughout the years. And just as the crowd was getting warmed up, they slid right into their bluesy radio classics “Waitin’ For The Bus/Jesus Left For Chicago” from 1973’s Tres Hombres. Two songs forever joined at the hip on the album, on the radio, and of course live. The crowd knew what was coming just as “Waitin’ For The Bus” ended but still popped the roof off as the beginning riff to “Jesus Left For Chicago” kicked in along with Gibbons’ familiar bluesy and still strong lead vocals.

Photo by Domenic Cirone

Photo by Domenic Cirone

Billy then handed the show over to the drums and Frank pounded out the familiar opening licks to ZZ Top’s biggest hit off of the Eliminator album, “Gimme All Your Lovin’”. The amazing part about this song live is watching “The Reverend Willie G” (Billy is indeed an ordained minister), simultaneously play rhythm guitar on the lower strings and the accompanying lead part on the higher strings. Moments like this make it hard to believe that there are only three band members on stage. Everything was brought down a slight notch with “Pincushion” from 1994’s Antenna and when the song died down, Billy addressed the audience thanking them and all of their fans across the nation for the years of support which in turn led to another crowd sing along favorite “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” for 1979’s Deguello.

Two songs, “I Gotsta Get Paid” and “Flyin’ High” from their most recent album, 2012’s Futura (produced by the legendary Rick Rubin) followed and then Billy paid homage to his former mentor and friend, the late Jimi Hendrix, by breaking into a heartfelt and down and dirty cover of “Foxey Lady”. This softened up the crowd for what was to come as Dusty then led the band into a cover of blues great Robert Petway’s “Catfish Blues”. While Billy’s solo proved why he is a living legend amongst guitar greats, it was Hill’s soulful lead vocals and down and gritty bass that actually brought Mr. Gibbons to tears at the end and the crowd noticed with an almost revered applause when the song was through.

Photo by Domenic Cirone

Photo by Domenic Cirone

The set’s pace picked back up with “Cheap Sunglasses” from Deguello and the crowd answered with the enthusiastic “Oh Yeah”’s that the song calls for. The band then started winding down the set with “My Head’s In Mississippi” from 1990’s Recycler and then one of their best songs from La Futura in ”Chartreuse”.

The other big hits from Eliminator finished off the main set, first with “Sharp Dressed Man” which got the crowd back on its feet and was the beginning of a slow frenzy that never stopped building right through the encore. Of course, “Legs” would follow, but not before Billy and Dusty switched guitars which made me realize that they never switched guitars through the first 14 songs of the set without once going out of tune. Again, this is something you never see by today’s standards as most guitarists swap out at almost every song and sometimes mid-song. And no ZZ Top concert would be complete without the Fuzzy Dice Custom Dean Guitars that they made famous in the “Legs” video which capped off the evening. Choreographed side stepping, shimmying, and swaying included.

The energy from the last licks of “Legs” carried into the encore and New York crowd would not let up until they heard the quiet opening riff to “La Grange” from Tres Hombres as everybody knew it would be sent to the next level once Dusty and Frank joined in and sent the song into high gear. At this point the crowd was no longer in neat rows at The Paramount but were up by the stage and in the aisles all in unison celebrating one of the greatest Rock and Roll bands of all time and the band knew this as they strutted and played like they were at Wembley in front of 100K in attendance. Of course, the band then drove right into “Tush” from 1975’s Fandango!. Dusty took back over on lead vocals and brought the crowd home on the highest of highs to end the night for good. Or so we thought…..

Photo by Domenic Cirone

Photo by Domenic Cirone

ZZ Top then did something they‘ve done only a few times on their 2015 Tour. The played a second encore to an extremely thankful and well deserved crowd. Billy ended the evening by leading the crowd in a cover of Merle Travis’ “Sixteen Tons”. 90 minutes after hitting the stage, ZZ Top left its mark on The Paramount for the better as the crowd knew that seeing “The Little Ol’ Band From Texas” that up close and in full form is a rarity in live rock acts these days.

Photo by Domenic Cirone

Photo by Domenic Cirone

Full Set List

  1. Got Me Under Pressure
  2. Waitin’ for the Bus
  3. Jesus Just Left Chicago
  4. Gimme All Your Lovin’
  5. Pincushion
  6. I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
  7. I Gotsta Get Paid
  8. Flyin’ High
  9. Foxy Lady (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
  10. Catfish Blues (Robert Petway cover, Dusty on lead vocals)
  11. Cheap Sunglasses
  12. My Head’s in Mississippi
  13. Chartreuse
  14. Sharp Dressed Man
  15. Legs

Encore:

  1. La Grange
  2. Tush (Dusty on lead vocals)

Encore 2:

  1. Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis cover)

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