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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Another Point Of View: ZZ Top (Review By Paul Hutchings)

Review: ZZ Top – Hammersmith Apollo 24 June 2013

The sacred halls of the Hammersmith Apollo (or Odeon to call it by its correct name) were rammed to the rafters when we arrived. Having grabbed a bit of merchandise and stunned at being charged £4.60 for a can of Murphy's we arrived at our seats shortly  after support act the Ben Miller Band started going through their paces. To quote their website (www.benmillerband.com): ‘Hailing from Joplin, Missouri, The Ben Miller Band is a one-of a kind trio that combines the frenetic energy of bluegrass, the soul of the delta blues and the haunted spirit of Appalachian mountain music. Band members Ben Miller, Scott Leeper, and Doug Dicharry create a unique and modern sound while continuing the tradition of blending together many different musical styles, which has long been a trait of their native Ozarks’. I don’t think I can put it any better so why try. Suffice to say, they were great fun, thoroughly enjoyable and had the packed Odeon lapping up their enthusiastic delivery. Top quality musicians playing something a little different but so in keeping with the night. Check out their album Heavy Load. It’s on Spotify. 8/10

During the break I recalled that selling out the Hammersmith Odeon was the pinnacle of a band’s career in the 1970s and 80s. The legendary ‘No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith’ live album from Motorhead was recorded here; as were numerous others. I have fond memories of this venue; especially chucking up in the toilets between Anthrax and Metallica on the Puppets tour in 1986. Too much vodka that night as Brett Perry will no doubt recall. Anyway, I digress. The house lights go out, the band are introduced by a female voice and there they are Tres Hombres, launching into Got Me Under Pressure from the Eliminator album. ZZ fucking Top; as cool as cool can be. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill out front, Stetsons, glitzy jackets, shades and of course, the beards!! Meanwhile Frank Beard (without facial hair as everyone knows) lays down a simple but oh so effective beat. Gibbons is a master axeman, peeling off those bluesy solos effortlessly, striding around the stage and interacting with Hill. They follow on with Waitin' For The Bus followed by Jesus Just Left Chicago. Absolutely brilliant stuff. You can check the set list out for yourself, but suffice to say this was a show which just took your breath away. Gibbons displayed super humour, referring to the “same three cords” that the band had been playing for 45 years. 45 years? Oh my god. These guys are older than Lemmy and even cooler. Four tracks from the excellent La Futera including Flying High where we were convinced the band were blowing incredibly strong weed into the crowd, and a storming cover of Hendrix’s Foxy Lady before finishing the main set with Sharp Dressed Man and Legs. As we waited for the encore it struck me how simplistic yet incredibly compelling this band are. Their current stuff sits comfortably alongside tracks from the first album, and yet still appears fresh. I found myself actually absorbing the entire experience which happens so rarely these days.The Top finished with a triple whammy; Tube Snake Boogie, La Grange and Tush leaving the crowd baying for more. An excellent show; top quality musicians and an appreciative crowd. 45 years and still going strong; in my year of classic rock it’s going to take something incredibly special to beat this. 10/10

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