ZZ Top, Brooks and Dunn deliver powerhouse concert
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People often envision God as an old guy up there with a long beard. Someone who looks a bit like Billy Gibbons.
Well, Billy Gibbons sure ain't God, but we could go ahead and posit the theory that God created the ZZ Top guitarist in his image to play dirty Southern blues-rock.
Gibbons made the case Wednesday night when his little ol' band from Texas played their first show in Pittsburgh in over a half-decade at the Post-Gazette Pavilion, topping an unusual country bill with Brooks & Dunn and Rodney Atkins.
"We've been playing here a long time," Gibbons said of ZZ Top, "and it's the same three guys right here. And we be playing the same three chords for you right here."
And that's a pretty humble assessment of that band right there. Far from a three-chord wonder, Gibbons is a guitar hero who's written some of the most killer riffs in our long classic-rock history, even if John Lee Hooker did help a little. On Wednesday night, he tore through them effortlessly, on a variety of guitars, including the white fur one that matched Dusty Hill's bass.
Gibbons, sporting an orange beard, and Hill, opting for gray, were sharp-dressed men in their black suits, dark sunglasses and wacky aviator caps, at times vamping together hilarious fashion. If this band didn't already exist, someone would have to invent it. It was built in 1969 to age gracefully, and it's done just that, even having morphed at one point from a beat-up pickup truck to a shiny, slick machine.
Now, it balances the charm of both. As for Gibbons, he sounds pretty bad, like a raspy old smoker -- when he talks (he told a story about how the wonders of a Primanti's sandwich he'd eaten earlier in the day). Somehow, when he used his voice to sing, it was all grit and soul, and true to the sound of the old albums.
An hour and change wasn't enough ZZ Top, but they squeezed in a good share of classics, starting with "Under Pressure," hitting that popular MTV phase with "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Cheap Sunglasses" and kicking the blues hard with "Waitin' for the Bus"/"Jesus Just Left Chicago" and a cover of "Hey Joe." Gibbons' solo on "Just Got Paid" was the sound of being passed on the super highway by three semis at once. And then there was the speed: "I Heard It on the X" could have caused whiplash and "La Grange" ruled so hard it can only be compared to going 100 mph in a convertible (sorry about all the vehicle references, but you have to agree they apply).
Hill matched it with that little crowd favorite "Tush," and let's not leave out the beardless one, Frank Beard, who drove the engine.
B&D joined ZZ for "Tube Snake Boogie" and "Jailhouse Rock," but left unplayed were songs like "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide," "It's Only Love" and "I Thank You," so, sorry, ZZ Top is going to have to come back and jam a little longer.
As for Kix and Ronnie, they know just how to entertain a crowd of proud Americans: There were songs about Jesus and wrecking your car, videos of hot girls in bikinis, and they not only stated that they support the troops, during "Only In America," they brought four of them out to salute and be saluted while red, white and blue streamers shot from the stage. It looked the Republican convention, but they never uttered a political word.
With a stage full of players and singers (in sharp contrast to ZZ Top), the duo twisted riffs from the Stones and the Heartbreakers into a hit-filled set of tuneful, rockin' honky-tonk. This show had been postponed last month because Ronnie Dunn was having trouble with his pipes. We can report that his golden twang was perfectly intact, on the upbeat tunes like "Can't Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl" and "Red Dirt Road" and on a fine Tex-Mex ballad like "Neon Moon."
They can pride themselves in being a country band that can share a stage with ZZ Top.
First Published October 16, 2008 12:53 am