There was Nothing “Cheap” about ZZ Top
Saturday Night after the Rays Republic had to endure the Tampa Bay Rays second loss in a row, the air within Tropicana Field quickly became charged and energized knowing that within a few minutes a recent inducted member band of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would be taking the stage and tranforming Tropicana field into a bluesy West Texas dive bar/Rock and Roll palace for the next few hours.
Transforming the Rays playing field into a makeshift concert venue, it was instantly apparent by the LED video screen attached to the back of the stage area that we would get a light show with our musical meal. And believe me, the crowd was ready for a sampling of everything that ZZ Top was going to put on out plates last night, including a few nice tidbits from their past, their musical influences, and most of all their long and deep list of classic tunes we all still rock out to in our cars while driving towards Tropicana Field for Rays games.
But little did the Tropicana field crowd know that within seconds of the Rays dimming the lights inside the Trop, we would all get a instant re-education in why these 3 Texans will always have a place deep within our hearts when it comes to classic Rock and roll music with a distinctive blues flare. From the totally wild and elaborate ZZ Top drums stand, to the video replays of their classic video clips on the stage-wide LED screen behind the band that showed classic black and white photos and color imposed video clips all throughout the concert bringing a swirling bit of musical and visual imagery that was intoxicating to say the least. The trip that the band was going to take us on tonight was going to be an epic visual and audio snack that we would all savor and relish long after the last note was played tonight.
For I know personally I spent many a day in the weight rooms during both High School and College lifting weights and doing stretching exercises to the deep pumping of the bass and the isolation of the electric guitar rhythms to get me into a pattern of working hard and producing a great sweat. And even listening to them tonight I got an instant flashback to those days, and I truly can tell you, the music sounds the same now as it did so long ago.
For if the trio of Dusty Hill, Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank beard were concocting a recipe up on that stage last night, it was based purely on the simple ingredients that has made them VH-1’s 44th “Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”. From hitting us with the big tastes of “La Grange” and “Sleeping Bag”, to playing a homage to their departed friend Jimi Hendrix, the rocking never stopped and the crowd was singing from the very first verse.
And even if the furry guitars did not get to do a 360 degree turn tonight on stage, the presence of such history making instruments sent the crowd into a loud ovation of approval to the band. And you could tell by the interaction of Gibbons and Hill that these two guys still love their job and do it not only for the nice rewards it brings, but enjoy playing the music and hearing the crowds still. Sometimes that is rare in a group that has been around since February 1970.
And even during all of that 40 years of music, Gibbons still can tell the tale with his voice and make his electric guitar sing like a little school girl. Here is the same band that was inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by none other than Rolling Stones own guitar legend Keith Richards. To say that Gibbons is not the premier blues guitarist is like saying Evan Longoria is just another Third Baseman. The best always makes sure to let their soul show in their music.
And Hill surely is still one of the better bass guitarist of his era and still sports that mean looking beard of his own with pride and joy. But I was amazed that he seemed to have gotten a bit smaller with age, or maybe it is because this is the closest I have even been to this trio in person, and I was totally in the moment watching all three create some great music last night. But the chemistry that still seems to flow between the two of them up front and center on the stage is remarkable to see in person. And the pure fact that both Gibbons and Hill are having a ball on stage performing for us was not lost on the crowd that kept it’s cheering loud and proud by singing right along with the band and the multitudes that were dancing on the turf of the Trop just shows how universal ZZ Top’s music is to this region.
Got to admit to you, I had a woman clearly in her 60’s standing next to me for most of the concert who was so into the music and the moment she was not afraid to thrust and elbow or twenty my direction as I was snapping photos. She even proclaimed at one point I was ” bumming her out” because I was not also hooting and hollering at the top of my lungs like she was tonight.I know she surely had a blast standing up front near the band swaying and crooning to every single tune the band played, even the slow ones.
The night however did seem to slip away from us, but still seemed too early to stop the music, dancing and remembering the moments and times that once co-existed within each of our lives surrounding these hits. Most of us hoped and wished for more music, another tune or two as the band made their way to their 4 Tour buses parked just outside the dome. But ZZ Top did not disappoint a single person tonight, even throwing down their signature bow-legged shuffle during one song.
The night air was very humid outside the Trop when we all finally left the cool confines and hot tunes still lingering inside the stadium. Our ears still ringing with the sounds and the rhythms from all the ZZ Top classic songs played on this night. I suddenly felt like a sharp dressed man, or had a feeling for some Route 66 magic.
ZZ Top truly came out on stage tonight and served up one of the tastiest musical meals to us even with some morsels I had never even heard on the radio before tonight. In the end, it was another great show nput together by the Rays Front Office (BK) to entice and make us all want to come back for some more real soon. With Rap artist Nelly coming to the Trop next Saturday, May 15th, I can surely tell you in all honesty I am hungry and ready for another fine helping of musical delights served up by the Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series. Can’t wait to dig in again for more good music and fun.