LIVE: ZZ Top @ Proctors, 2/26/17
Review and photographs by Ed Conway
Proctors, the pillar of Schenectady’s arts and theater scene, continues to broaden its fare. Normally known for their Broadway-style entertainment, Proctors has been continually trying to bring in a diverse spectrum of entertainment, such as the recent science-related show “Brain Candy Live,” as well as musical acts, such as the upcoming Bryan Ferry.
Last week, they brought in ZZ Top, the stalwart trio from Texas, who normally play arenas, to showcase their brand of southern rock/blues.
Starting off the evening was Austin Hanks, whose brand of southern rock was a good choice for a warm-up to the tour-de-force waiting to be unleashed on the sold-out audience. Hanks is touring behind his recent release Alabastard, which, not so coincidentally, was produced by ZZ Top guitarslinger Billy Gibbons. The band was a tight unit as they slid from song to song in their short 30-minute set.
Frank Beard strode out to his drum set, fitted with light-up tiki masks on the two bass drums, and lit his cigarette. It was time to rock. Gibbons and bass player Dusty Hill made their way on stage, bringing the audience to their feet with a crowd favorite “Got Me Under Pressure.”
The audience was never given a chance to settle down as they went from song to song like the long-time rock masters they are. Based on how they can still run around the stage with ease, you would never know this line-up has been together for somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 years – probably longer than most in the audience have been alive. While they played their biggest hits – such as “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs,” among others – the highlights for me came as a surprise – they were actually cover songs.
Paying homage to the person who took them around the world on tour, Gibbons began the familiar buzzing guitar strains of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” which was done to perfection. Later, speaking of a request from Jeff Beck for them to play a country song, the band went into an interestingly rocking version of Merle Travis’ “Sixteen Tons,” which just goes to show that a good song is a good song no matter what style it’s played in.
They closed out their main set with radio favorites from their Eliminator album, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs,” compete with fuzzy guitars, although disappointingly, they didn’t spin them. Digging into their older bag, they brought out “La Grange” and “Tush” for the first of two encores, before closing out the show with a cover of “Jailhouse Rock.”
I can’t think of another time this theater saw such a loud, raucous spectacle, but the grand old theater handled it with the style and grace one would expect.
Kirsten Ferguson’s review and Eric Jenks’ photographs at The Daily Gazette
Steven Stock’s review at The Spot 518
Excerpt from Jim Shahen Jr.’s review at The Times Union: “After “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” prefaced by humorous anecdotes from Gibbons about his Gloversville-raised father and a recent gig in Vegas, the band leader led a torrid version of ‘Pincushion,’ propelled by his gravelly vocals and dirty Southern blues licks. After some more vicious guitar work on ‘I Gotsta Get Paid,’ the quality of the show stayed the same, but fan interest ebbed while Gibbons led the band through a triptych of covers. First up was a bluesier take on ‘Foxy Lady’ that was OK, but unexceptional. ‘Catfish Blues’ had some nice vocals from Hill and memorably rippin’ leads from Gibbons. ‘Sixteen Tons’ was played as an homage to a recent collaboration with Jeff Beck. Even without the British guitar legend, it was a decent little country-rocker.”
ZZ TOP SET LIST
Got Me Under Pressure
Waitin for the Bus
Jesus Just Left Chicago
Gimme All Your Lovin’
I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
I Gotsta Get Paid
Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix)
Catfish Blues (Robert Petway)
Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis)
Sharp Dressed Man
Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley)