First Council Hotel & Casino
January 15, 2015
Words By Jeb Wright
Photo By K.C. Wright
Got Me Under Pressure | Waitin' for the Bus | Jesus Just Left Chicago | Gimme All Your Lovin' | I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide | Pincushion | I Gotsta Get Paid | Flyin’ High | Foxy Lady | Catfish Blues | Cheap Sunglasses | My Head’s in Mississippi | Chartreuse | Sharp Dressed Man | Legs
La Grange/Sloppy Drunk Blues | Tush
In 2015, ZZ Top has become much more than that little ol’ band from Texas. Yes, the two bearded wonders, along with that guy named Beard who beats on things, have become American rock ‘n’ roll’s version of baseball, hot dogs and Chevrolet.
ZZ Top is the pot roast and mashed potatoes ‘n’ gravy of rock ‘n’ Roll these days. It’s not a meal you often have, but every time you do, it tastes oh so sweet and leaves your belly warm and full.
Tonight, ZZ made it to that little ol’ town in Oklahoma…Newkirk, that is! The First Council Hotel & Casino is doing a great job of bringing first class talent to the rural town. The venue doesn’t have a bad seat, the sound system is state of the art and the intimate seating makes one feel they are upfront and close, no matter what row is printed on their ticket stub!
The one thing that was annoying -and this is unfortunately true for any venue that has reserved seating and no security in the front of the stage- was the folks who feel the need to go stand in front of the stage and wave their arms in the air with a drunken smile on their face and get an associate to take their picture with the band playing behind them… I blame Zuckerberg.
On this night, ’assisted selfie’ happened many times… and unless you were one of the elite, you didn’t enjoy it. The Reverend Billy G played along with the crowd nicely, even stopping the show so one lady could ask for a guitar pick as well as letting an 11-year-old girl come on stage with the band so she could receive a guitar pick—after she promised to make good grades. Okay, the kid was cute and that was kinda heartwarming, and that kid will be a ZZ Top fan for life… but the grown-ups should know better. Maybe I am old school, but to me music is an art form and art is a transcendental and emotional experience. Sure, rock music is fun, but there is no reason that the show can’t be enough.
It would be nice if people would just leave their Selfies to when they are trying on a hat in a department store or drunk in a bar making fish faces. People who paid for their tickets, and even jaded rock critics who did not, should not have to put up with people stealing the limelight from the band that was paid to perform their music for everyone in attendance, not just them. Think about it: This night was about ZZ Top and their timeless music and not about a drunk thirty-something soccer mom who owns only, at best, ZZ Top’s Greatest Hits album. Go ahead and enjoy yourself and have a beer, but let the show be about the music and not about you. This kind of behavior was even more annoying when the 70-year-old drunk chick that spilled wine on my buddy was actually, at least it seemed to me, hitting on him. Thank God I let him have the aisle seat… it could have got even messier!
Before we get back to the music, there is one other thing that made this writer feel a little uneasy on this night. I would be willing to bet a Billy G Mexican Peso that he did not sing during the song “Legs.” Why? It was too damn good, and his vocal register on the tune is higher than every other note he sang on this evening. TRACKS? I hope to goodness I am wrong, but if he did it all by himself, live, then his voice is better than it has been in decades. This writer is crossing his fingers hoping it is a case of taking care of the old vocal cords, but seeing this band over twenty times my fear is that he faked it. There I said it. There have always been rumors of the Gibbons-lip-sync, and now I have witnessed it, or at least I think I did. Now, let’s quit the speculation and get back to what this review should be about, and that’s the music.
One thing, however, that wasn’t faked was the fricking guitar and bass show that was put on the entire evening. Bassist Dusty Hill and guitarist Gibbons can flat jam out the freaking blues. Towards the end of the set they tossed out the Muddy Waters classic “Catfish Blues,” which was a musical highlight of the set. The band had another elongated blues jam during the encore at the end of the classic song “La Grange.”
The Reverend Billy Gibbons gave ZZ Top’s music that smooth as good whisky and tasty as KC Barbeque sound decades ago… and their music, like a smoked brisket, just tastes better when it simmers in a smoky low heat. The music on this night was stellar!
The classics from ZZ Top’s multi-platinum classic album, 1983’s Eliminator were all trotted out and well received. Two of that album’s best bookended the main set list. “Under Pressure” started it off while “Legs,” closed the set. “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Sharp Dressed Man” came in-between and were easy crowd favorites.
It was nice to see the band include two classics from 1979’s Degüello in the set. “Cheap Sunglasses” is just stone cold cool while “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” is, simply put, a muther-fucker of a good song!
ZZ took time to introduce three songs from their critically acclaimed 2012 return to form album La Futura. “I Gotsta Get Paid” is classic ZZ-Top, the band not sounding this good since the good old days. “Chartreuse” is another classic sounding tune, while “Flyin’ High” is more upbeat, peppy and happy than many of their classics, but it comes across well live.
Does it ever get better than the opening riff to “Waitin’ on the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago”? The answer is no! These tunes are just tasty sweet and sassy, and if you are not smiling and moving about while ZZ slams these tunes out then you are a bad person and that’s all there is to it!
There were two surprising musical moments in the show. One was the excellent Texas-sized cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic “Foxy Lady.” The other, a reminder of how damn good the song “Pincushion” from the 1994 album Antenna is, and how it’s been overlooked over the course of their career. The song has a great groove and a killer jam, and it was just fine with the crowd that the bearded ones snuck this tasty treat into the set.
The night ended with “Tush” and everyone on their feet singing along. The band had a good night. Gibbons and Hill were all smiles and doing their Not So Paula Abdul stage moves throughout the night. They may not be as graceful as Paula, but they look super cool doing what they do. Billy even had his tour manager light him up a cigar during “Tush” one of many fun rock and roll moments trotted out during the night.
It should be noted that if one was not a fan of this band when the show started, but is a red-blooded heterosexual male, then the video screens during this concert will make you a fan! Of course there are three lovely ladies from the classic MTV videos being played in the background, but there is also a buxom blonde known only as ‘The Girl’ that struts her stuff on the screens leaving little to the imagination. Political correctness be damned, it’s nice to be able to admit a pretty lady is much more fun to watch than a handsome dude during a concert!
In conclusion, it’s almost too easy to describe a ZZ Top concert as a good time, but that’s what it is and what it will always be. These guys left a handful of the classics in the dressing room, yet the set list was more than satisfactory. The drunken people didn’t notice the possible vocal sneakiness, or the fact that the famous neat-o sound in “Cheap Sunglasses” was emanating from nowhere on stage, so all’s well that ends well. Besides, there were fuzzy guitars, great licks and some killer guitar solos all tossed around an hour and twenty minutes of some of the most classic of classic rock tunes, which, in my book, makes for a damn fine Thursday night out in Newkirk, Oklahoma!