ZZ Top with special guests Gov't Mule Nikon at Jones Beach Theater Wantagh, NY September 9, 2016
ZZ Top, known as the Little Ol' Band From Texas, has for the past forty-some-odd years been bringing its own special brand of rock 'n' roll with a boogie woogie, southern, bluesy flair (as well as facial hair) to the masses since its formation in Houston, TX in 1969. The band originally featured Billy Gibbons (guitar and vocals), an organist named Lanier Greig and Dan Mitchell on drums. When Dusty Hill (bass/vocals) and drummer Frank Beard (the only member of the band who does not look like the modern-day heirs to the Smith Bros. cough drop fortune) joined the group in 1970, the band began to take off. The trio was soon signed to a record contract and in 1971, released its debut album, ZZ Top's First Album on London Records. Over the course of its career, ZZ Top has sold millions of records and played for fans the world over. Gibbons, Hill and Beard (kinds of sounds like a law firm) have, during the course of their career received MTV Video Award nominations and wins, Grammy nominations, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Gov't Mule was formed in 1994. It came into being as a side project for Allman Brothers' guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody. Its music is a mix of southern rock, funk, blues and Americana-inspired jams. During its career, Gov't Mule has become more than just a side project. The band has released over twenty CDs and EPs. It has sold out venues across the country and the world. The band's fan base flocks to its shows in expectation, wondering who the band will surprise the crowd with as that evening's special guest. Gov't Mule is also a huge draw at music festivals. On a warm and muggy September evening at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, situated directly on the bay in Wantagh, NY, Gov't Mule began the evening with a sturdy seven song set. The set was far from short; the band played for an hour. Opening with "Bad Little Doggie" and closing with "Thorazine Shuffle," Haynes and company delivered exactly what its fans expected jamband tour de force. Another highlight of its performance was the cover of the Allman Brothers' "Kind of Bird."
After a short intermission, ZZ Top (bassist Hill, dressed in blue jeans and a dark jacket while wearing his trademark cowboy hat and dark sunglasses, guitarist, Gibbons dressed in black with his bowler-type hat and dark sunglasses and drummer Beard, who was barely visible behind his oversized drum kit) took the stage to a huge round of applause.
With the audience already on its feet, the band launched into a high-energy version of "Got Me Under Pressure." It followed that up with "Waiting For The Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago." With Gibbons brandishing a red SG-style six- string and Hill toting his cream colored bass featuring green and pink pin-striping, their beards flowed gently in the light breeze that drifted in from the water at the outdoor amphitheater. They juked and danced to the music while the crowd ate it up. Gibbons whose deep, deep, gravely, bluesy voice is as unique as his guitar playing, was the epitome of cool. His guitar playing was crisp and bright, and his vocals were spot-on. Hill's vocals were also solid, flawlessly meshing and contrasting with those of Gibbons.
Prior to "Gimme All Your Lovin,'" Gibbons, who was clearly having a good time, announced with a sly smirk, that it was "time to get the drummer some love." Following "Pincussion" Gibbons again addressed the crowd. He smiled and asked, "Are we having a good time tonight?" He continued for a while getting the audience riled up and then he stated, "Gov't Mule turned it up tonight...That's the way it is 'cause, you're bad, you're nationwide!" The band then ripped through the fan- favorite "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" during which Gibbons offered a guitar pick to a lucky young fan in the front row.
The hits-filled set continued with "I Gotsta Get Paid" featuring Hill on keyboards, a slowed-down version of "Rough Boy," the Jimi Hendrix tribute "Foxy Lady" (which, as smoke filled the stage, Gibbons announced, "We're gonna go back now."). The Robert Petway tune "Catfish Blues" (a song Muddy Waters called "Rollin' Stone") followed. Gibbons, then came forward and told a story about touring with Jeff Beck. He set the stage by saying, "Time to do something weird." He then leaned forward and stated, "ZZ Top doing something weird?!?" The crowd exploded with a mixture of whistles, cheers and laughter. Gibbons continued, "We toured Europe with Jeff Beck and when we asked him if he wanted to do something with us, he said, 'let's do a country song.'" What followed was a wild version of Merle Travis' "Sixteen Tons."