Concert Review

I Survived ZZ Top at Talking Stick Resort

Sadly, I didn't get my wish.

I really wanted to see someone push their friend (or maybe date) into the pool at Talking Stick Resort on Sunday night while ZZ Top was playing and it didn't happen. The other thing that didn't happen was a good concert. At best, the subdued crowd was treated to an old band going through the motions.

Sure, ZZ Top played the hits, but depending on where you were sitting or standing, they didn't sound like hits. Songs like "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Got Me Under Pressure" off of 1983's Eliminator record were played early in the set and sounded more like a sloppy cover band than the mighty Texas blues-based rock 'n' roll band that gave birth to them.

ZZ Top needs to be loud. All the other prerequisites were there: drinks were in almost every hand, the casino atmosphere seemed to make it almost a necessity to smoke, and the weather made it perhaps the final night in the next six or seven months cool enough to wear a leather jacket, but the main thing missing was Billy Gibbons' killer guitar tone being the preeminent sound of the evening.

Drummer Frank Beard stepped on the beat too many times for a drummer of his caliber, and bass player Dusty Hill was a bit all over the place as well, but their pieces of the puzzle were consistently higher in the mix than Gibbons guitar and vocals. After having read a few recent reviews of ZZ Top's 2015 live shows, it was not surprising to hear Gibbons struggle a bit with his vocals. The man is 65, and I'm not saying it's time to retire, but maybe take a break and let the voice bounce back a bit, if it is even possible after almost 50 years of gigging.

As many great songs as the band has in its repertoire, the highlight of the evening was a cover of Jimi Hendrix' great song "Foxy Lady," toward the middle of the set. This song really seemed to get the mostly 50- to 55-year-old crowd going. At least there was good people watching. During the concert, I saw Stevie Nicks (not really, but her look is contagious), Martha Stewart (again, not really, but we were just east of Scottsdale), and a man who strongly resembled Stan Lee leading his date for the evening, who was swathed in a wonderful cape-like blanket emblazoned with a cat, through the crowd.

Perhaps it was the casino atmosphere or maybe it was the pool looming in the middle of the venue, but there was more of an air of what could or might happen than a sense of what was actually happening. ZZ Top seemed to be having fun, and that was enough for many of the attendees, but lackluster performance and sub-par sound made the evening a disappointment, and the slow, outward trickle of concert goers that started around the sixth song of the band's set was a strong indication of just how dissatisfied some of the more casual fans seemed to be.

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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon