Baby boomers and slightly younger fans crowded the House of Blues in Las Vegas, hooting and hollering with anticipation. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s party time,” said the cute young, blond girl in the video that opened the show. At 10:20pm, those sharp dressed men, bassist Dusty Hill and guitarist Billy Gibbons, entered the stage with their classic long beards, cowboy hats, dark suits and cheap sunglasses. Ready to rock! Beardless Frank Beard, wearing a tee-shirt, pounded the drums. The trio powered through their entire 80 minute set promoting new album, La Futura, without any breaks. Gibbons wished the House of Blues a Happy 20th Birthday. “We’ve been doing this for 4 decades,” he added and the lively crowd cheered.
The show was a warm and fuzzy look back at ZZ Top’s great bluesy music and rockin’ hits over the years. Video clips, live shots of the band and other visuals enhanced the songs on-screen behind the band. Classic MTV videos played along-side “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Legs” while other songs had visuals such as pretty girls driving cars. Old movie clips of Vincent Price accompanied “Vincent Price Blues.”
At one point in the show, the band took a license plate from a fan. It read: ZZ TOPS. They passed it around on stage to sign. Gibbons then pretended to be an auctioneer, bidding. “Do I hear 25? 25?” The fan got their license plate back eventually.
Folks kicked up their heels to “Tube Snake Boogie.” There was a lot of 70’s and 80’s nostalgia in the air. I purchased that same famous ‘ZZ’ keychain I had and lost over 10 years ago. For their last few songs including “La Grange” and “Tush,” Gibbons and Hill switched out their guitars for those crazy white and fuzzy ones that spin. The only thing that would have completed the experience for me was if they actually spun those guitars live just once. Well, at least the guitars spun in the video clip. This was a solid performance and this is the perfect band for this venue. ZZ Top has legs.
California hard rockers, Tesla, named after the famous inventor, Nikola Tesla, has reinvented itself over the years. Their risky move in the 90’s to strip down their electric guitars and play acoustically transformed the music business and inspired a generation of rockers ‘unplugging.’ Their current tour is in support of their latest album, “Twisted Wires and the Acoustic Sessions,” released in 2011 with some acoustic remakes of their earlier songs and a few brand new songs like “Second Street” and “Better Without You.”
HOUSE OF BLUES
Tesla played a very packed House of Blues Saturday, January 7, 2012.
With over 25 years of playing their ‘blues metal’ has built a very strong fan-base with a very diverse following; metalheads, hippies and blue-collar types, kids in their 20’s and older fans of 30’s and 40’s. Opening band, Built By Stereo, warmed up the crowd. Tesla played for about an hour and twenty minutes. They had a strong start and a stronger finish. Lead singer Jeff Keith, sporting a football jersey with his name on the back, belted out the hits; “Comin’ Atcha Live / Truckin,” “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out),” “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Signs.”
The meat of the show was really for diehard Tesla fans as it pertained to lesser-known songs and songs from the new album including “Second Street” and “Better Without You.”
Playing acoustically is an animal all to itself. Some fans prefer the unplugged versions of Tesla’s rock songs while others like the original electric versions. This is not the band I saw over 20 years ago. Their energy was not the same. Mostly, the band sat on stools like any other acoustic jam. Keith got up and walked around a bit to connect with the audience. Guitarists Frank Hannon and Dave Rude showered the crowd with guitar picks. The packed house burst into singing “Love Song.” A pleasant surprise in Tesla’s set was a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You.”
Chad Plummer was my guest at the show. It was his idea to watch the show near the bar so I could use the bar to lean on when taking notes. Good idea, Chad. If the energy of the show was better I might have moved closer to the stage. I never moved.