The songs virtually have been coded into the DNA of music fans of a certain age—"Sharp Dressed Man," "Jesus Just Left Chicago," "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Legs," "Heard It on the X," "Waitin' for the Bus" and, for God's sake, "La Grange."
ZZ Top, that little band from Texas, now into its fifth decade, filled a show with all those and more (including a pair from the band's new album, La Futura) Sunday night at AVA, the final night of the band's 2012 tour.
It almost goes without saying that guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard played together like a finely tuned hot-rod (even if the opening number, "I Thank You," began a little sluggishly). Makes sense, too, since they've been together since 1970 without a personnel change. "Same three guys, same three chords," Gibbons joked between songs.
The concert was a streamlined affair with few frills beyond a nonstop music-video—combining old clips, new footage and live shots—displayed on five screens varying in size from big to gargantuan. Gibbons and Hill indulged only occasionally in their trademark synchronized choreography, briefly trotted out those furry white guitars and, during one break, traded their Future Farmers of America jackets in for more sparkly duds. Synthesizer embellishment, by the way, could be heard in the mix only rarely.
Otherwise, most of the showmanship was reserved for the music, with Gibbons' snarling leads welding Chicago- and Texas-style blues to catchy, polished pop-rock. The rockin' was especially authoritative on the frenzied "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers," the vaguely lascivious "Tube Snake Boogie," the grimy blues of "My Head's in Mississippi" and the immortal "Tush," wailed convincingly by Hill. The momentum stayed high throughout: When Gibbons unexpectedly had to switch guitars in the middle of one tune, Beard and Hill didn't miss a beat.
The band left the stage after less than 90 minutes. The audience never got to hear "Cheap Sunglasses," "Just Got Paid," "Pearl Necklace," "Got Me Under Pressure" or "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide." It's a testament to the band's deep catalog that it could leave out all those songs and still deliver a satisfying, entertaining concert.