Published Mar 22, 2014ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons is a guitar legend. Anyone who's ever heard anything off one of the band's 15 albums over the past 40-odd years already knows this, but seeing the man himself in a live setting is an entirely different trip.
The happy trickster Gibbons chatted up the crowd with funny anecdotes (like his hilarious try at being captain of the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria), but more importantly he was in the zone musically, blazing through guitar solos and laying down thick blues jams like a champ. We get the feeling he's always in the zone, though.
Toronto's Flash Lightnin', featuring Victoria native Darren Glover on guitar and vocals, warmed up the crowd nicely with some blues rock of their own, coming across, at best, as a low-rent Queens of the Stone Age (still the equivalent of a pretty good band) and, at worst, a high-rent Danko Jones. Confidence got them a long way, however, as did pure determination, with Glover tackling flirty guitar solos that had the crowd buzzing when the trio finished their set.
But that buzz became a dull roar when the irreplaceable ZZ Top hit the stage with "Got Me Under Pressure." Gibbons, bass player Dusty Hill and their only beardless member, Frank Beard (yup, we've heard the jokes), on drums were determined to rock at their own pace. The Texas three nailed a greatest hits-type set that included all three of the breakthrough hits from 1983's landmark album, Eliminator ("Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs," for those keeping track at home), a lot of early era material, a few songs off their 2012 return to form, La Futura, and some inspired, extended blues jams.
Including a shout out to local food truck Tacofino ("The best tacos this side of Texas," said Gibbons), the guys used their endearing choreographed stage moves and funny banter to get a rise from the huge arena crowd. Gibbons even had his own cigarette roadie (a la Courtney Love) come out during the one-two punch encore of "La Grange" and "Tush," two old-school numbers that brought the crowd to its feet.
Despite the rock solid rhythm section of Hill and Beard, the unhinged force here was Gibbons. The locked-in bass and drums gave Gibbons room to move around with his serpentine licks and inventive harmonic playing. Most guitarists would huddle in a corner at the thought of covering a Jimi Hendrix song; Gibbons grabbed "Foxy Lady" by the horns mid-set and ran with it. Most guitarists would play it safe on a proto-blues classic like "My Head's In Mississippi"; Gibbons turned the classic rocker into a frenetic, extended blues jam. Most guitarists would have trouble handling a huge, fuzzy guitar during "Legs"; Gibbons played the shit out that tacky looking thing. Most guitarists, it seems, aren't Billy Gibbons.