ZZ Top - Casino Rama - September 9th, 2010

by Laurie Lonsdale
Photos by Scott McAlpine

www.zztop.com

As legendary guitarist Billy Gibbons so aptly pointed out at Casino Rama on September 9th, “It’s been 40 years, and we’re still the same 3 guys playing the same 3 chords.”  Though the comment about playing the same chords clearly was a joke given Gibbons playing prowess while delivering intricate one-handed solos, indeed it IS the same three guys that originated the band forty years ago in Houston, Texas, and have since kept things as real and as simple as possible.  The band hasn’t seen any member changes or well-publicized arguments, there isn’t a fancy stage set up, there are no theatrics, and no special costumes or flash – just drums, a bass, and a guitar, and a signature style of sunglasses, hats, and untrimmed beards that makes them immediately recognizable.  

With the same minimum of fuss as their career would suggest, ZZ Top took the Rama stage and immediately launched into “Got Me Under Pressure” from their 1983 mega-success “Eliminator”.  The groundbreaking album spawned several hit singles, as well as a series of memorable music videos featuring Billy Gibbons' 1993 cherry red Ford Coupe Hot Rod, known as The Eliminator.

But before the band got around to these highly anticipated songs, they segued into a few blues covers.  Though the audience varied in age with the majority on the upwards of 40 side, it seemed that many weren’t familiar with the blues offerings and truly didn’t connect with the show until hearing the identifiable riff of “Cheap Sunglasses”, from the B-side of ZZ’s 1979 album Deguello.   “My Head’s in Mississippi” quickly followed. 

With neon-lit diesel stacks as mic stands, guitarist Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill paid tribute to the late great Jimi Hendrix with a cover of “Hey Joe”, while graphics of Hendrix ran on the big screen backdrop behind the stage.  Screen visuals continued to switch up throughout the set, alternating from clips of wrestling, to women dancing, to maps of the US and major city postcards while the band appropriately played “Nationwide”.

Drummer Frank Beard (ironically, the only band member without a beard) looked entirely in his element behind a massive silver and gold drum kit adorned with 3D skulls and the ZZ Top double ‘Z’ logo.  Throughout the set he calmly puffed on a cigarette while providing a powerful but simple backbeat. 

Nevertheless, the show truly didn’t get its dose of octane until ZZ busted out back-to-back fan favourites with “Gimme All Your Lovin”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, and “Legs”, while bits and pieces of the unforgettable accompanying videos ran on the screen behind.  Gibbons and Hill also brought out the fuzzy white guitars that appeared in the music video for “Legs” and gave the crowd cause to smile with their synchronized yet oh-so subtle dance moves. It was during this time that the lighting and energy of the show also changed, offering up a Vitamin B-12 shot to the arm of most concert goers. 

After a brief break, ZZ returned to the stage to deliver “La Grange”, which had fans groovin’ in the aisles, as well as their 1975 hit “Tush” to round out the night.  And then as quickly and easily as they had appeared on stage, they exited again, with fans still singing as they made their way out of the venue.

Set List:
Got Me Under Pressure / Waiting For The Bus / Jesus Just Left Chicago / Pincushion / I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide/ Future Blues (Willie Brown cover) / Rock Me Baby (B.B. King cover) / Cheap Sunglasses / My Head's in Mississippi / I Need You Tonight / Hey Joe (Jimi Hendrix cover)  / Brown Sugar / Party on the Patio / Just Got Paid / Gimme All Your Lovin' / Sharp Dressed Man / Legs / Encore: La Grange / Tush