ZZ Top: They've got legs
In late 2017, ZZ Top had to cancel the last 18 dates of the Texas trio’s Tonnage Tour due to an ailment suffered by bassist Dusty Hill. They promised a full touring schedule for 2018, but the break may have given ZZ Top space to come up with a few fresh ideas. A new studio album is in the works, a co-headlining Blues and Bayous Tour with John Fogerty has been arranged and, after launching their latest tour in El Paso, ZZ Top will debut as Vegas headliners when they load in to The Venetian Theatre for a five-date extended run.
It’s surprising that it’s taken this long, 49 years after the band was born. All three musicians love to gamble, but guitarist Billy Gibbons really loves Las Vegas—one of his favorite houses is located here, its 24-hour nature suits him and he can get around without being mistaken for a silver prospector now that long beards have become socially acceptable. Hill had a beard since the beginning, or at least by the time the Houston blues rockers played a prom several months after making their debut at a Knights of Columbus Hall in February 1970.
Fame, and the iconic image the group eventually cultivated, didn’t come immediately. It wasn’t until the band’s third album, Tres Hombres, that its boogie sound would reach a wide audience with John Lee Hooker musical homage “La Grange.” They became road warriors in the ’70s, releasing two more studio albums before taking a three-year sabbatical. Refreshed, ZZ Top came back in a big way with 1979’s Degüello. “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Fool For Your Stockings” and a cover of Isaac Hayes “I Thank You” became live staples, and would become part of the classic rock canon that includes much more.
ZZ Top had moved forward by the time the classic rock format caught on, absorbing the industrial sounds of Depeche Mode and Ministry before releasing blockbuster hit Eliminator in 1983. The band had perfected a blend of synthesizers and blues boogie, and the hit single “Gimme All Your Lovin’” paved the way for a parade of hits including “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs,” and “TV Dinners.” Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard had perfected their grizzled-and-whiskered Lone Star State look as well, which they sported as supporting players in a series of videos featuring an iconic car, a magical keychain and a trio of guardian angels.
The success garnered ZZ Top the kind of following that allows acts to take three years off any time, but it’s not likely they’ll be doing that in the near future. Next year is the group’s 50th anniversary, and much of 2018 is taken up by the band’s concert calendar. They’ll likely have an album ready by next year, and judging from a recent jam between Fogerty and Gibbons, fans could easily experience crossover between the two acts on the Blues and Bayous Tour. There may not be Creedence Clearwater Revival songs played at The Venetian, but the band would be amiss if they left their version of “Viva Las Vegas” off the set list.
The Venetian, 8 p.m. April 20-21, 25 & 27-28, $59-$350 VIP plus tax and fee. 702.414.9000