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ZZ Top Energized Crowd At Meijer Gardens

Iconic blues-rock band brought grease and rigor to a July 7th performance at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
ZZ Top

ZZ Top /Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Benjamin Dakota Rogers, who opened for ZZ Top at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on Thursday, July 7th, might have stepped out of a sepia-toned postcard from Appalachia. He wore old-fashioned clothing, had tuned his guitar like a fiddle, and sang about whiskey, the devil, and murder. He sang in a yelping, twang-inflected voice that, in the end, just tried too hard. He exuded so much passion that there wasn't much left for the audience to feel. 

ZZ Top was different. ZZ Top was there to have fun. 

The band has existed, roughly, forever. Formed in 1969 in Houston, it earned early acclaim as a loud, crunching, greasy blue-rock outfit, fronted by master guitar player Billy Gibbons. In the 1980s, the band found a second life, or at least extended its first one, by putting out witty, memorable music videos in which they often appeared just outside the main event like recording angels. Fuzzy guitars, long beards -- they could have been cartoon characters.

If the years have taken their toll (and they must have; how could they not?), the band didn't show it. They stepped onto stage and quickly launched into 1983's "Got Me Under Pressure." They looked fabulous and sounded better; the music was so enjoyable that you might not have noticed the rigor and artistry of it. If Gibbons' voice was something of a croak, well, his voice was never the main draw.

"I Thank You" followed. Originally recorded by Sam & Dave, ZZ Top has made it their own. It fits well in the band's catalogue, with its sleazy blues melody and gloriously dumb lyrics ("You didn't have to squeeze it/ but you did, but you did, but you did / and I thank you"). By this point, some of the audience was up and dancing.

The setlist stuck to the hits: "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide," "Sharp-Dress Man," "Legs": all protein, no carbs. They didn't play every hit: no "Cheap Sunglasses," no "Tush." Maybe that was due to age; Gibbons is 72, after all. Or maybe they wanted to leave the audience wanting more. 

Which isn't to say we weren't satisfied. People danced, nodded their heads, sang along. You always get one person who can't stop talking, and this show was no exception; a woman in a paisley shirt, sunglasses, and sculpted hair conversed with her seatmate like she was being paid by the word. Still, the audience had a blast. "You guys are badass," somebody shouted more than once.

Songs ended abruptly, at times. ZZ Top wasn't there to linger. But they played with an enthusiasm and energy that the crowd found infectious and I thank them. 




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