Doswell, Virginia USA – It all started in 1969 in that little town of Houston,Texas, where the ‘Reverend’ Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard formed the band ZZ Top. It wasn’t long before they signed a record deal with London Records and released ‘ZZ Top’s First Album’. Fast forward to 2019 and 19 albums later, an estimated 50 million albums sold worldwide, and they released ‘Goin’ 50,’ a compilation album commemorating the band’s 50th anniversary. And let’s not forget in 2004, ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In early July of this year, Hill was forced to leave the tour after a hip injury. ZZ Top performed without him on July 23, at the Village Commons in New Lenox, Illinois. Hill’s guitar tech (of 20 plus years) Elwood Francis played bass. Up until this point, ZZ Top had become the longest-running band with an unchanged lineup in the history of popular music. On the 28th of the month ZZ Top announced that Hill had died at his home in Houston at the age of 72. As per Hill’s wishes, the band would continue with Francis on bass.
All day thunderstorms travelled through the region with a possibility of torrential rains at showtime. Concert goers arrived prepared for the inclement weather with rain gear in hand as they made their way to the front gates of After Hours Meadow Event Park. As showtime neared, the clouds parted and the skies darkened as the opening act, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, hit the Servpro Pavilion stage and introduced the audience to some of the best rockabilly-country-blues that I have heard on this side of the Mississippi.
With Reverend Peyton on guitar and vocals, “Washboard” Breezy Peyton on washboard and a few other percussion instruments and drummer Max Senteney rounding out the trio, they delivered a storm of their own on stage as they had the crowd riled up clapping their hands and stomping their feet to songs like “Rattle Can”, “Pot Roast and Kisses” and ‘Poor Until Payday”. They are a true sight to be seen and heard. If you have not heard Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, I strongly urge you to check them out ASAP!
After Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band left the stage, the atmosphere became charged, as if the storm clouds were building up for a lightning strike, as ZZ Top brought their own Texas Rock-N-Roll storm to the stage. The crowd rose to its feet as ZZ Top kicked off the night with “Got Me Under Pressure”, and continued with “I Thank You”, and Elwood Francis got a chance to exhibit his unique bass playing prowess as they played “Waiting For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago”.
A few songs later, Gibbons looked out over the sea of fans, young and old, and reminisced about the past 18 months saying, “It is great to be out again!” As the fans responded with a rousing roar of laughter and cheers, he asked, “What did we do for the last year? I don’t remember what I did for the last year! I know what I did not do…I did not cut the grass!” Gibbons then pointed to bassist Elwood Francis who had not shaved for the past year, and said “They’re real whiskers on his face”. It wouldn’t be the same ZZ Top without a beard.
Later in the set Gibbons told the story of the day he made a call to London, England, to speak with Jeff Beck. From the conversation, it led to ZZ Top’s version of the Merle Travis cover “Sixteen Tons” which was made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford. The crowd sang along in unison to “Sixteen Tons” with ZZ Top as Gibbons responded to the crowd during the chorus “So y’all know this song?…..I wish we did.”
Several songs later ZZ Top broke out their signature white Gibson furry guitars and busted out one of their 1980’s top ten hits “Legs!” The crowd went into a frenzy as they all sang along during the final song of the set. After leaving the stage, the ongoing roar of the crowd brought ZZ Top back for a three song encore set beginning with “Brown Sugar”, “La Grange” and closing out the night with the ZZ Top classic “Tush”.
I saw ZZ Top for the first time live August 7, 1983 on the “Eliminator Tour’ and have seen them approximately 10 times over the past 38 years. And they have NEVER disappointed me at anytime as they always bring the Musical Storm to the stage!! Rock On ZZ TOP for the next generation!!
ZZ Top Setlist
- Got Me Under Pressure
- I Thank You (Sam & 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)
- Just Got Paid
- Sharp Dressed Man