Photography by Jon T. Cruz
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame act ZZ Top made a stop at Edgefield on August 22nd with openers Nashville Pussy. The weather was perfect to take in an early show and the venue was jam packed with the 45 plus year old demographic being strongly represented.
Atlanta’s Nashville Pussy kicked off the festivities with their unforgiving brand of southern flavored rock ‘n’ roll. Lead guitarist Ruyter Suys always an unrelenting force on stage; this was no different—she hit the stage like she was shot out of a cannon with a death grip on her black Gibson SG. Blaine Cartwright complimented Suys brilliantly as grinded out power chord after power chord throughout Nashville Pussy’s 40 plus minute set. Cartwright’s gravelly vocals cut through the unsuspecting audience’s eardrums like a chainsaw ripping into an old tree trunk. Filling in for the ailing bassist Karen Cuda on these shows with ZZ Top is Bonnie Buitrago. Buitrago did a phenomenal job covering Cuda’s fierce rumbling bass lines. Buitrago provided great vocals; however Cuda’s penetrating harmonies were sorely missed.
The most of the audience were clueless as to ‘who’ Nashville Pussy was at the beginning of the evening. The band opened with “I’m So High” which had the salt ‘n’ pepper crowd scratching their heads. Seven songs deep they played their rendition “Milk Cow Blues” then followed it up their catchy original “Why Why Why” and closed with the Ike & Tina Turner classic “Nutbush City Limits.” Nashville Pussy destroyed the lawn chair and blanket brigade leaving shards of Eddie Bauer, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Dockers attire littering the perfectly manicured grass.
Photo by Jon T. Cruz
I stopped catching ZZ Top live in 2006, the band had become ‘too safe’ and started playing a stock 70 minute set that took no risks and relied heavily on ‘the hits.’ I believe by that point ZZ Top was mailing it in. In addition they were using way too many backing tracks for my taste— which it no longer made it a live show. Fast forward to 2012; were we find ZZ Top still on tour and on the verge of unleashing a new album La Futura (their first in nine years). Leader Billy F. Gibbons is legendary for his ferocious guitar tone and his raspy bluesy vocal which is ZZ Top’s trademark. Bassist Dusty Hill thundering bass lines locked in nicely with Frank Beard’s drums from the opening notes of their rendition of Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You.” The audience came ‘alive’ when ZZ Top hit the stage which was great to see considering they were at times unresponsive to Nashville Pussy.
Photo by Jon T. Cruz
In full disclosure Gibbons and Hill have the stage presence of cardboard vampires dressed in western garb. I will say that they moved around a tab bit more than the last time I saw them. They also appear to be having a genuinely good and were giving just as much as the audience gave ‘em. Drummer Frank Beard’s drumming was solid though it made me wonder how much it is ‘just’ him swinging the lumber or how much was aided by the use of triggers and other pre-recorded material. In any event this was the most ‘live’ I have seen ZZ Top since probably 1997. They’ve stripped things down and it’s a ‘more honest’ show. Granted it’s not a throwback to the glory days ofpre-Eliminator but this was very good. ZZ Top dusted off “Stages” from Afterburner which as fans know is a commercial, catchy power blues pop tune that is synth heavy. Once again they stripped this down to the bare minimum which made for a tenacious, bluesy, scorching tune. I was not a fan of Afterburner but this retooled version of “Stages” was fantastic.
ZZ Top debuted a new track “I Gotsta Get Paid” which is a rap tune they ‘reworked’ into a Texas blues original. “I Gotsta Get Paid” is about peddling crack cocaine of all things. It went over with mixed results. Of course you got the usual suspects in the set which is aimed at the casual fan; “Gimme All Your Lovin,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” and classics for die-hards; “Waitin’ for the Bus,” “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” among others. The encore consisted “Tube Snake Boogie,” “La Grange,” and “Tush.” All in all a great night was had by all including this writer. I just wish that Gibbons and Co would ‘dig deeper’ into the back catalog and do tour where they performed songs like; “Mexican Black Bird,” “Francine,” “It’s Only Love,” “Nasty Dogs & Funky Kings,” or “Brown Sugar.” If and when that happens remains to be seen, but what we witnessed in Troutdale on August 22nd was pretty damn good.