ZZ Top with Austin Hanks (June 7)

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers rumble into PNC Pavilion at Riverbend

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click to enlarge ZZ Top - Photo: Ross Halfin
Photo: Ross Halfin
ZZ Top

In this era of band lineup shifts occurring as frequently as wardrobe changes, ZZ Top has maintained the same three-man roster since 1970. Still, the band’s first year of existence was tumultuous. Former Moving Sidewalks vocalist/guitarist Billy Gibbons formed ZZ Top in 1969 with Sidewalks drummer Dan Mitchell and organist Lanier Greig, who was quickly supplanted with more conventional bassist Billy Ethridge. Mitchell was booted for American Blues drummer Frank Beard, and when Ethridge balked at signing a record contract, Beard suggested his bandmate Dusty Hill. With the lineup settled, ZZ Top signed with London Records and released its debut, ZZ Top’s First Album, in 1971 and its sophomore effort, Rio Grande Mud, the following year. They both stiffed.

It was 1973’s Tres Hombres that provided ZZ Top with its first Top 10 album, hit single “La Grange” and sold-out shows. The subsequent tour was recorded and some of those live tracks appeared on one side of the band’s next album, Fandango!, while the studio side yielded ZZ Top’s biggest hit to date, “Tush.” 1976’s Tejas cracked the Top 20, but was considered a disappointment, and after nearly seven straight years of touring, the band took a two-year break from the road and each other. It was during this hiatus that the members grew their signature beards.

After settling their London contract with a greatest hits album, ZZ Top signed with Warner Brothers and released the platinum selling Degüello, followed by El Loco, which introduced the synthesizer to the band’s repertoire. It was 1983’s Eliminator and its ubiquitous singles (“Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Legs,” “Got Me Under Pressure” and “Sharp Dressed Man”) that cemented ZZ Top’s stature as one of the world’s biggest Blues/Rock bands. Although the group’s fortunes waxed and waned, relatively speaking, ZZ Top remained a consistent concert draw and cultural icon, earning entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

In the five years since ZZ Top’s gritty return-to-form La Futura album (the single from which, “Flyin’ High,” accompanied astronaut Mike Fossum to the International Space Station), Gibbons released a side project with The BFGs (2015’s Perfectamundo) and the trio released a live album, last year’s Tonite at Midnight. The musicians might be working on new material, but it hardly matters — after 15 albums and nearly 50 years of scorching Rock and chicken-wire Blues set to a sleazy boogie beat, structuring a show is not a concern. A new wrinkle is that ZZ Top’s continuing Tonnage Tour has included a pre-show craft beer tasting. Dare we say it? They got kegs and they know how to use them.

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