ZZ Top and Kid Rock: review and photos
The thunderstorm that tore through the Chicago area Friday caused the evacuation of First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, delaying the start of the evening’s ZZ Top/Kid Rock show. All those clouds had at least one silver lining: Due to the delay, we were spared the night’s scheduled opener, Uncle Kracker. A smattering of people in the audience, who apparently still remember Kracker’s “Follow Me,” booed the announcement. Other soggy crowd members seemed pissed that the rain shower had killed their Busch buzz.
All hard feelings were quickly put aside once ZZ Top began its backwoods boogie. Introduced by a faux grindhouse film trailer (rated “ZZ,” naturally), Texas’s tres hombres—the two long-beards and the mustachioed one named Beard—kicked things off with “Got Me Under Pressure,” Billy Gibbons’s crunchy blues tone roaring through the outdoor venue like a hot rod in the red. Carrying matching purple guitars, Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill looked like a pair of southern-fried, sexagenarian Muppets, however sharply dressed: floral embroidered jackets that could’ve been stolen from a mariachi band, hats and black-framed sunglasses that one can only assume were cheap.
If you’ve ever seen one of ZZ Top’s ’80s videos, you’re well aware that the band isn’t known for its mobility. (Ironic, considering the group was originally called Moving Sidewalks.) They’ve got legs, they just don’t seem to know how to use them. In the videos, through the magic of editing, the trio suddenly appears in an environment—a hotel bar, a fast-food restaurant. Gibbons and Hill do their slight, synchronized shimmy. Then the three disappear into the ether. Though it was never explained, we all assumed: ZZ Top are space aliens imbued with the power of teleportation.
For "Legs," Gibbons and Hill strapped on the white fur guitars made famous by the video for the 1984 single. Yet there were no 360-degree twirls. Technology made ZZ Top MTV’s most unlikely video stars, but with the group’s only live visual aids being a handful of screens flashing stock footage of rollercoasters and spark plugs, the show leaned on musicianship and attitude.
With barroom bravado, Gibbons did double time, skillfully balancing rhythm and lead parts, and occasionally flying through scales with just his left hand on his instrument. Usually a human drum machine with plenty of swing, Frank Beard noticeably lagged behind the beards at a couple points, including on the gimme “Sharp Dressed Man.” In the middle of his solo for set closer “Tush,” Gibbons summoned a stagehand to light his cigarillo. It didn’t seem like an intentional act of showmanship, rather a natural, subtle extension of the sort of southern swagger that the night’s headliner, Kid Rock, takes to cartoonish levels.
The storm picked up again. Lightning flashed behind the stage. As quickly as ZZ Top had appeared, they were gone.