(DTE Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI - 5/23/03)
Sometimes, when notoriously great bands of the late '70s, '80s, and '90s come back to town after a self-ordained lay-off, you have to wonder if the time away from the scene has been a kind one to them! Too many things can go wrong to a band that's not been in the spotlight - let alone, in the studio for any prolonged period of time!
But with ZZ Top, those worries are calmed the instant the house lights go down, the stage lights come on, Frank takes the drums, Dusty flexes his lil' chubby fingers, and Billy takes his first vocal turn at the microphone! It truly is as if the hands of time have stood still for this Texan trio. Their music is STILL of such a high quality it's dumb to think that they will EVER retire from the business!
Tonights 'Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers' Tour kicked off with the boys - themselves decked out in Mexican sombreos and ponchos (to celebrate the release of their soon-to-be-released new album, Mescalero) - singing 'Gimmie All Your Lovin', 'Pincushion' and a 'Jesus Just Left Chicago' medley.
The no-frills stage setting served it's purpose well, with its backdrop behind Frank of just a minitature version of the Addams Family house front - complete with two (as it turned out later, REAL!) skeleton guards. The quiet tones of 'Rough Boy' floated out from the stage next, and by now all who were paying attention knew that the ZZ Top sound was 100% spot on perfect even after all this time.
As the Mexican-wear comes off to reveal black suits, cuffs, collars and boots diamond-sparkling for all to see, 'Cheap Sunglasses' is brought to the fore. Singing their hearts out, Billy - as usual - wears what seems to be half a coconut atop his head, whereas Dusty goes for a more stylish Veteran's beret! Next, Billy talks about the delayed new album and whether or not they should play some tracks off of it tonight. The crowd convinces them that they should and so the impressive-sounding 'Buck Nekkid' is sung next. As they sing, cartoon-like images of the trio float ghost-like along the huge black curtain behind them.
Bathed in a purple and blue light, they play some low down, dirty blues before heading into 'I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide.' Swinging their guitars in unison, both have their sunglasses on, their guitars highly polished, and their smiles lost behind a mass of hair!! Frank works hard on the drums, never out of sync, but seems lost; even disinterested sometimes. Dusty then sings another new track called 'Piece' (which is under high suspicion for having some 'borrowed lyrics' contained within it!), but it's when hometown boy, Kid Rock takes the stage that the crowd REALLY take their voices to the next level! Admittedly, he's only there to have a shot with the boys, but the noise level was incredible.
Following that pit-stop with 'Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers', ZZ Top brought the show into the final bend with 'Tube Snake Boogie,''Sharp Dressed Man' and a fluffy-white-guitar rousing rendition of their classic, 'Legs.'
Saying goodnight, the cold Michigan air still funneling from their mouths, the band leave for just a few minutes before returning for an incredible performance of both 'Grange' and their ultimate finale song, 'Tush.' Then, they wave goodbye once more, this time with their guitars and are then gone for good into the warm sanctuary of their dressing rooms!
Review & Photos by Russell A. Trunk