For a band who come (mostly) shrouded in the most celebrated facial hair in rock’n’roll and wielding some hoary old blues riffs, there is a predictable purity to the tres hombres ZZ Top. The Texan trio are like a southern Ramones with their precision-honed sound and schtick, which guitarist Billy Gibbons succinctly summed up as “same three guys right here, same three chords right here.”
Academy, Glasgow ****
For ZZ Top, this was just another opportunity in another town to do what they have been doing for nearly 50 years; for the audience, though, this was a rare visitation from a legendary – all but mythical – band.
It could almost be anyone under those hats, shades and bushy beards, though it would take a lot of whisky to replicate Gibbons’ remarkable gruff tone, which contrasted with the (relatively) lighter rock’n’roll rasp of bassist Dusty Hill.
Behind their distinctive double act, taciturn drummer Frank Beard worked his enormous kit like a Trojan through a seamless set which began with the sound of a revving engine, fired into the tech boogie of Got Me Under Pressure and followed up with the opening one-two of their classic Tres Hombres album – Waitin’ For The Bus, their hilarious budget driving song with an irresistible groove which decelerated in the space of a beat to the slow lascivious blues swagger of Jesus Just Left Chicago.
The torrid Pincushion and taut, economical rock’n’roll of My Head’s In Mississippi were hard rocking highlights from their later albums, but much of their earlier material cheekily celebrates the simple pleasures and aspirations of the working man from the heavy psychedelic blues of Just Got Paid to the delightfully daft Cheap Sunglasses.
They also paid tribute to their rock’n’roll roots with passable covers of Foxy Lady and Jailhouse Rock and their country crushes on a rockabilly rattle through Merle Travis’s Sixteen Tons and a self-styled “redneck rock” rendition of Buck Owens’ Act Naturally.
Gibbons turned over his guitar to reveal his rider demands emblazoned on the back. Just one word: beer. But ZZ Top like their bling too.
Now that they are practically a brand in their own right, they have splashed out on shiny guitar straps, glittery detail on their matching jackets, gleaming keyboards and the matching fluffy guitars they saved up for Legs which formed a party tune troika with Gimme All Your Lovin and Sharp Dressed Man.