ZZ TOP SOLD OUT EXPECTATION @ THE ACADEMY
Getting things up and running tonight in Glasgow is mid-80’s, early 90’s Chicago blues outfit the Red Devils. On with the red lights and into what initially seems like an old style band tune-up, but turns out to be a warm up in to the opening track….neat touch.
A driving Chicago/Texas style blues-rock outfit, they had a bit of the Black Crowes in their front man’s vocal and some decent guitar lines over their stomping rhythms. It takes a couple of tracks for the sell-out Glasgow crowd to really warm to them but, warm to them they do. The Top’s crowd is dancing around me to this onslaught of the blues driven at them hard.
They do seem a bit cluttered at points with both the front man’s harmonica and the lead guitar vying for the same spotlight. Although, the combined effect is powerful and a great entry to the main dish overall, which really builds the feeling of expectation in the room.
As the stage is getting turned round for the main act I find myself wondering what the show will be like, having wanted to, but never had the chance to, see The Top live, and given their advancing years, I don’t know what to expect.
Then the numerous Magnatone amps light up and the drum kit sits on stage looking like some sort of retro-futuristic-industrial instrument of brutality, brooding in the smoky dimness of the Academy, complete with gong!
Out they come, ZZ Top, and boy do they deliver, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill looking like a cross between something from a Mad Max movie and two bad hombres from a spaghetti western…..and those beards, it's iconic. The opening track Got Me Under Pressure really sets the bar high. The sound quality and the clarity a step up from before.
Up through the gears they move to hit us with Gimme All Your Lovin’, Billy’s guitar tone exquisite and the sleazy, laid back beat held down by Beard, on drums, tight as you like. There is a definite swagger about them and an easy confidence in their stage presence. The way Gibbons and Hill stalk around each other on stage and please the Glasgow fans with the effortlessly executed stage moves they have become known for but which are delivered with a humour that doesn’t feel cheesy.
Gibbons angular blues guitar lines and improvisations on the night pay testament to his reputation for magical touch and tone on his instrument with Hill’s solid bass lines the throbbing undercurrent of the night.
The journey through their set takes in a closely observed cover of Hendrix’s Foxy Lady then moves in a country direction when Gibbon’s donned his Les Paul Standard for some bottleneck slide in Act Naturally. Classic Cheap Sunglasses and the dynamite riff in Just Got Paid give way to Sharp Dressed Man ……. Everyone singing the main chorus refrain back at the band.
Best of the numerous guitar changes of the night especially for Legs in a nod to the furry Gibson Explorer guitars from the original video they had a couple of special square ones which looked great. At this point they go off and are chanted back to the stage by the raucous crowd chanting for more.
Back on for an encore, another guitar change and into La Grange which should be the perfect closing tune in my humble opinion, but they had more ……. Tush, great I’d totally forgotten about that one. A fantastic end to a great night as they take a bow and leave the stage for the second time …….. the chanting brings them out for another……. More guitar changes and new jackets this time. We are treated to a cover of Elvis’s Jailhouse Rock, which is great although, I thought an odd choice to finish on.
All in all, this iconic trio – Beards, Hats, Shades and Blues still got it. 5 decades in the business and that experience showed in their performance which still seemed fresh even given when they started and how old some of the hits are. Top night! Pardon the pun……
ZZ TOP'S TOUR CONTINUES:
28 JULY - 3ARENA - DUBLIN, IRELAND
30 JULY - RAMBLIN MAN FESTIVAL - MAIDSTONE, UK
24 AUGUST - PNE AMPITHEATHER - VANCOUVER
25 AUGUST - CHEATEAU STE.MICHELLE - WOODINVILLE, WA
26 AUGUST - MARYHILL WINERY - GOLDENDALE, WA
27 AUGUST - CUTHBERT AMPITHEATHER - EUGENE, OR
29 AUGUST - MOUNTAIN WINERY - SARATOGA, CA
31 AUGUST - RED BUTTE GARDEN - SALT LAKE CITY, UT