No Pressure For ZZ Top and Jeff Beck at The Woodlands
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
ZZ Top, Jeff Beck Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion May 2, 2015
All right, fine, ZZ Top. You win. I guess every girl is crazy about a sharp dressed man.
Well, at least this girl is anyway, after the sharp-dressed and sharp-sounding show the boys from Texas put on at Cynthia Woods on Saturday night, where Dusty Hill, Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard proved that they're every bit bluesy and brilliant as they've ever been.
Opening with "Got Me Under Pressure," it was immediately obvious that time hasn't touched this trio -- at least not musically. Yes, the blues-rockers, which have been making music together since the early '70s, appear a bit more weathered -- Dusty and Billy's beards, once quite vibrant, are a bit more grey -- but their sound is nothing less than perfect.
During the hour-long set, the Texas rockers hit every single note, and pulled out every hit -- down to songs like "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" and "Legs" -- and not one of them left us wanting for more. Those gruff, bluesy vocals and the velvety guitar licks are still there, and still solid.
Even cooler, though, is that while staples like "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Cheap Sunglasses" certainly didn't disappoint, one of the highlights for this Houston gal was to hearing the band's brilliant reworking of the '90s Houston rap classic "25 Lighters" by Fat Pat, Lil Keke and DJ DMD.
Under ZZ Top's direction, Pat's song is layered with heavier guitars and rock-tinged vocals, and has been christened with a new name, "I Gotsta Get Paid." But no matter the tweaks, the song, now a mashup of Southern rock and Dirty South rap beats, is pretty darn awesome. When ZZ pulled it out Saturday, every head in Cynthia Woods, from the throngs of grey haired fans on down to the newest generation of fans, bobbed to the beat. Fat Pat would have been proud.
Pulling such a top-notch show off would be no small feat for a band that's been in the business for decades, but when you throw in Dusty's tour-stopping hip injury late last year, such a solid performance becomes even more impressive. So if the beards had to take the hit, so be it. The tradeoff is worth it.
But while those Houston boys were certainly top-notch, they were hardly the only highlight of the night. The double-bill also showcased rock guitarist Jeff Beck, who has played with everyone from Eric Clapton to Rod Stewart, and whose show Saturday one of the best (if not the best) in the business.
Featuring blistering renditions of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" and "Morning Dew," Beck's hour-long set was an eclectic, vibrant showcase of just how versatile and interesting this musician truly is. But, true to form, Beck wasn't satisfied with just busting out some wicked guitar riffs, and instead had Jimmy Hall join him onstage to absolutely slay the songs.
Hall is one of the best R&B vocalists around right now, and it's pretty amazing that he isn't better-known. His voice -- powerful and full of emotion -- is built to blow your hair completely back, and it does just that from note one. He joined Beck on songs like Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come." Between Beck's guitar-god prowess and Hall's jaw-dropping vocals, they took the early-arriving audience to blues-rock church. Seriously.
Rarely does an opener (which, unfortunately Beck felt like, for all intents and purposes, since he went on in the earlier slot) get a standing ovation like Beck and Hall got following "A Change is Gonna Come," but they did. And they deserved every second of it.
So between Beck and Hall's flawless set to ZZ Top's rockin', infectious sound, the night was a win for the audience out at the Woodlands Saturday night. Oh, and Houston, you should be proud of your hometown boys. The little band from Texas still has it -- every iota -- and it looks like they'll continue to pull it off as long as those hips, and those beards, will let them.
Personal Bias: I am the jerk who must blare "La Grange" while driving through La Grange. Sorry about that.
The Crowd: Well, let's just say most of them were probably sporting real vintage concert tee's from the '70s. Lots of OG ZZ Top fans in the group, and even more Tommy Bahama button-downs.
Overheard In the Crowd: Not much, actually. The crowd was probably one of the politest, and most mesmerized, I've seen in a long time. The chatter was minimal.
Random Notebook Dump: A guy was wearing sunglasses on the back of his head the entire concert. Seriously. Is that a thing now?
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