Get ready for ZZ Top

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First Posted: 3/2/2015

ZZ Top has been dishing out its own brand of blues-rock and boogie for 45 years, selling more than 50 million albums worldwide.

The trio of Billy Gibbons (guitar, lead vocals), Dusty Hill (bass, co-lead vocals) and Frank Beard (drums) has been together since day one, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. (And, yes, Beard is the one that doesn’t have the long, flowing beard.)

“That Little Ol’ Band from Texas” is back on the road, making a stop at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on March 8.

In anticipation of a hot night at the Wilkes-Barre theater, the Weekender recently traded emails with Gibbons, the band’s leader, main lyricist and musical arranger.

Weekender: Looks like the band is playing theaters and performing arts centers for the most part on this leg, do you guys do anything differently for the shows in these more intimate spaces?

Billy Gibbons: It’s the same kind of show we’d do in a stadium except we get to see who we’re playing for which is a definite bonus. There’s certainly more interchange with the audience and the vibe is warmer. Essentially, it’s the same three guys playing the same three chords — just up close and personal.

W: I really enjoyed “La Futura” and it was really great to have new music from the band after almost a decade. Were you pleased with the reception the new material has received and can we expect some songs from that album in the upcoming show?

BG: Yes, it was good to come out of the studio after a long time away with an album that seems to have resonated in a big way. We do, in fact, typically perform some of the songs from “La Futura” on our tour dates but, then again, we also perform songs from our very first album — ZZ is a broad-spectrum band in this regard.

W: Are you guys working on any new material and can we expect another album from ZZ Top in the near future?

BG: We’ve got quite a few new ZZ styled songs and song concepts rattling around. Now it’s just a matter of time to get into the studio and put ‘em down. I did manage to assemble a disc of Afro-Cuban compositions for an upcoming appearance in Havana. It’s way out there.

W: February marked the 45th anniversary of the first show as ZZ Top. Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you would still be doing this in 2015?

BG: Lots of crazy stuff happens in our ‘wildest dreams’ but staying in a band for all this time doesn’t happen to be one of them. We like rockin’ it for the duration while fully awake.

W: Speaking of 45 years, do you guys have a secret as to why ZZ Top has remained at the top of its game for so long?

BG: …Because we do our utmost to have a good time while we do what we do. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t. In short: ZZ wanna keep the good times rollin’.

W: How many guitars do you take on the road and what’s your current favorite?

BG: About a half a semi’s worth — maybe 35 or 40. We’re always partial to “Pearly Gates” (Gibbons’ 1959 maple sunburst Gibson Les Paul)… and at the moment there’s also a fine ‘61 Les Paul, the transition model which sounds killer.

W: In recent years you have played with Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Les Paul and, most recently, Johnny Winter. Arethere any more players you would like to work with or pay tribute to soon? Are there any of the younger players you would like to work with?

BG: Let’s put it this way, if Keith Richards called we’d put all our other calls on hold. We’re diggin’ Gary Clark, Jr., Grady Champion, Graham Clise of Lecherous Gaze, Buddy Guy’s discovery Quinn Sullivan, Ana Popovic plays as good as she looks. There’s a lot of great talent out rockin’ it in a potent and powerful way.

W: After the current tour, what plans does ZZ Top have for the remainder of the year and into the future?

BG: Our basic plan is to do more touring, try to squeeze some recording in, rinse and repeat.