Photography by Stan Martin / Review by Chuck Stanley
“Do You Know How Much I Paid For These Shoes?”
ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons is on a solo tour promoting his new album “The Big Bad Blues” and he played the Aztec Theatre in San Antonio, Texas this past Sunday night.
“I’m afraid I offended the sound man earlier today during soundcheck,” Gibbons told the crowd in one of his many story telling interludes throughout the night. “I told him NO speakers in front of the stage, NO speakers! Do you know how much I paid for these shoes? I want them to see ‘em!”
At 68 years young, Billy F. Gibbons knows how to work a crowd and he did it all night long during the 19-song setlist. His solo band features guitarist Austin Hanks, an accomplished solo singer/songwriter of his own. Drummer Matt Sorum, who has played with The Cult, Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, channeled his best Frank Beard at times, but he certainly brought his own dynamic, rockin’, bombastic style to the party. Though the show was mostly performed as a 3-piece, ZZ Top’s longtime guitar tech, Elwood Francis, was brought out several times to play harmonica, sing and perform the guitar solo on the band’s raucous rendition of “Route 66”.
Make no mistake, Billy Gibbons was there to promote his new solo album, but that didn’t prevent him from incorporating songs from his first solo effort 2015s “Perfectamundo” and a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” which was performed for the San Antonio audience simply because of the lyrics “But that train keeps a-rollin’ On down to San Antone”. ZZ Top fans were graced with modern, yet respectful, renditions of 7 ZZ Top standards like, “I Thank You,” “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and more, including the night’s finale about that shack outside “La Grange”.
During one of his many stories between songs, Gibbons told the crowd, “I know you hear bass guitar, but you don’t see no bass guitar”. The leader of the band went on to describe how his guitar is modified to play the bass notes, while also blessing the crowd with his signature “metalized” blues-rock sound. Austin Hanks, the other equally adept guitarist on stage, took the lead for his original solo song “Rising Water Blues” and drummer Matt Sorum sang lead for the encore cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” which also featured Sorum providing a John Bonham inspired drum solo that shook the room.
Billy F. Gibbons has 50+ years of making and playing music under his belt buckle necklace and Sunday night showed he’s keeping it interesting for himself and his devout audience. At one point in the latter section of the setlist, Gibbons knelt down on the edge of the stage, while playing his guitar, to reach for a fan who was willing to share their Bud Light. He gladly took a drink, returned it and went back to giving the audience what they came to see. Here’s to you Mr. Gibbons “Billy, Billy”.