Although not without minor glitches, ‘that little ol’ band from Texas’ rolled out thunderous classics with its revamped lineup, keeping much of the Meijer Gardens crowd on its feet all night. Review, photos.
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From the first riffs of “Got Me Under Pressure,” ZZ Top zoomed their way into the hearts of Thursday night’s sold-out crowd assembled at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
Billy Gibbons, with his shades, hat, and peachy, woolly beard, was joined onstage by drummer Frank Beard (the one without the beard) and new member Elwood Francis, who replaced bassist Dusty Hill who died last summer at the age of 72.
Francis, who for 30 years was the band’s guitar tech, picked up Hill’s mantle with oomph and grit.
He’s definitely keeping the thump in the Top (you could feel the bass line in your sternum on “I Thank You”), not to mention growing an epic beard of his own. “That’s not a stick-on beard,” Gibbons joked.
The band delivered some deep cuts for serious fans, including “Pearl Necklace” with its headbanging flourish, and “Jesus Just Left Chicago.” Fans sang along lustily to “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” and thrilled to Gibbons’ fiery guitar solo.
“ZZ Top is in the house!” Gibbons proclaimed to wild applause. “Or out of the house, the Animal Freaking House.” He was reflecting on how good it felt to be out touring after two years of being homebound during the pandemic. After all, performing on stage is what this band has done for more than five decades, and they obviously relish it still.
Crowd members who came for the hits were not disappointed. They went bananas for “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs,” in which the bearded ones swapped out their normal-shaped guitars for their trademark, squared-off instruments covered in white faux fur. Those tunes were full-tilt boogies—fun, fun.
Gibbons’ growling, gravelly vocals stamped each tune with the band’s singular sound, yet something was missing, probably the smooth chemistry Gibbons shared with Hill.
A couple of the songs were a little bit disjointed, and not all the transitions worked. These small but noticeable glitches left this reviewer glad to have seen ZZ Top for the first time, but also wishing she could have seen them in their prime.
Opener Benjamin Dakota Rogers, meanwhile, hasn’t even come close to his prime. The rural Ontario singer songwriter, 26, wowed with his eight-song set, and achieved quite a feat for a warm-up act: He left the enthusiastic crowd wanting more.
Joined by upright bass player Peter Klaasen, Rogers played his four-string acoustic guitar unplugged yet the sound was incredible. With a rich, unusual voice, the singer-songwriter seems like a time traveler, or at the very least an old soul.
His luminous songs, about lost farms and lost ways of life, are Celtic-infused folk with a decidedly modern finish. In the end, you can’t decide if he’s come from the future or the past; you’re just glad he came at all.
PHOTO GALLERY: ZZ Top, Benjamin Dakota Rogers at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Derek Ketchum