ZZ Top dazzles sell-out crowd

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First Posted: 3/9/2015

WILKES-BARRE — While many lesser bands have fallen by the wayside, ZZ Top has been delivering the goods for more than 45 years.

Sunday night was no exception as “That Little Ol’ Band from Texas” served up 16 of its classic tunes for a packed house at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.

The 2004 inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wasted no time, bringing the crowd to its feet with opening number “Got Me Under Pressure” from the mega-selling 1983 album “Eliminator.”

The trio of Billy Gibbons (guitar, lead vocals), Dusty Hill (bass, co-lead vocals) and Frank Beard (drums) then scored with the one-two punch of “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” just like they did on 1973’s “Tres Hombres,” the band’s breakthrough third album.

Then it was back to “Eliminator” for “Gimme All Your Lovin’” as the famous music video played on the stage’s two screens, then on to “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” from 1979’s “Deguello” and “Pincushion,” a 1994 tune from “Antenna” that reached No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.

Two songs from ZZ Top’s most recent album, 2012’s “La Futura,” sounded right at home with the classics as “I Gotsta Get Paid” and “Flyin’ High” kept up the momentum. Later in the show, the guys went back to “La Futura” one more time with “Chartreuse.”

“We’re gonna go back – way, way back,” Gibbons said as the band played a tasty version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Foxey Lady,” then Hill took over lead vocals for “Catfish Blues,” a Delta blues song that dates back to the 1920s that was also performed by Hendrix.

Next up was audience favorite “Cheap Sunglasses,” followed by “My Head’s in Mississippi,” which Gibbons turned into “My Head’s in the WB” for the occasion.

The main set came to a spectacular conclusion with two more standouts from “Eliminator”: First up was “Sharp Dressed Man” as the crowd rose to its feet, then came “Legs” complete with the white, fur-covered guitar and bass guitar from the video.

ZZ Top then capped its performance with fiery renditions of “La Grange” (from “Tres Hombres”) and “Tush” (from 1975’s “Fandango!”), leaving the crowd clamoring for more.

Even though the band played for almost 90 minutes on Sunday, it still didn’t have time for such ZZ staples as “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers,” “Arrested for Driving While Blind,” “Tube Snake Boogie” and “Pearl Necklace.” Oh well, maybe next time.

Opening act duties were more than adequately filled by the Ben Miller Band, a trio from Joplin, Missouri, which specializes in “Ozark stomp” music, a unique blend of delta blues, bluegrass, Appalachian mountain music and more.

The band’s use of unconventional instruments such as the one-string washtub bass, electric spoons, electric washboard and cigar-box guitar – as well as the trio’s high-energy, spirited performance – went over well on Sunday, earning Miller, Scott Leeper and Doug Dicharry a well-deserved standing ovation.

Standout songs included Miller originals “Ghosts” and “Life on Wheels” as well as the band’s arrangement of traditional tune “The Cuckoo,” all of which are featured on the group’s second album “Any Way, Shape or Form,” and a killer version of “Black Betty.”

If you missed Sunday’s show at the Kirby Center, both bands will be in Philadelphia at the Electric Factory on March 14.