Mojo's Working

Blues-rock's finest haw-haws NYC after 10 haw-hawless years

Wait, so you're telling me Billy Gibbons and "Dusty Hill"—the beard guys from ZZ Toparen't brothers? The twin 12-amp stacks, the matching lime-green suits and guitars (like one of those pranks parents pull on their kids), the move where ZZ back-and-forth in tandem—excuse me for assuming toddler Gibbons and toddler Hill sat together in the same bathtub once or twice.

"Same three guys, same three chords," said Gibbons at the Beacon. Thirty-five years the Houston blues-rock trio's been at it, and 10 since they've played in New York. So they didn't spin their guitars. They didn't bring the longhorns with them either. In their tour-van place, we can only guess, are thousands of copies of Gibbons's new Rock + Roll Gearhead book. Hill doesn't have a book yet, but (fate has it) his voice has aged better, his hell-yeahs and haw-haw-haws scratched but not scratchy.

Foot-long scruff bluffs more than shot vox though, and my guess is the ZZ-does-Velvets "Pearl Necklace" had the same suggestive cachet as it did a couple decades ago—Gibbons's crunchy solos still daggered through the air despite Beacon's flat system, and the understated Hill made sure to thrust his pelvis, just so we know his mojo's working. Listen, I love Fischerspooner as much as the next guy, but "Got Me Under Pressure" did electroclash better than electro and the Clash, and live ZZ blasé better too: Midsong, hands fly off the fretboards just to straighten beards, or swig a stranger's whiskey bottle, or point at each other's crotches.

Unfortunately, they left their Texas longhorn steers back home on the ranch.
photo: Willie Davis/Veras
Unfortunately, they left their Texas longhorn steers back home on the ranch.

Hand it to Top for sneaking a few songs off 2003's Mescalero into the set, even when the audience promptly sat down and shrugged Uncle Milty–like upon announcement. Not content to be a ZZ Top cover band, they still aspire to the majestic banal of "Cheap Sunglasses" or the gritty lovestruck anxiety of "Got Me Under Pressure," and that's pretty damn inspiring. Almost as much as their galanga-langa chicken dance during "Sharp Dressed Man." Among other things, they still got legs.

 
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