BY MORGAN KING–STAFF WRITER
On Fri., March 21, the Norton Center for the Arts will be hosting a sold-out show for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legends ZZ Top.
The show, originally scheduled for Homecoming Weekend, was postponed after co-lead vocalist Dusty Hill sustained an injury falling from the tour bus. The rock group, however, did not wish to disappoint their fans and rescheduled their tour until Hill had made a full recovery.
The bearded rock trio played their first concert together 45 years ago in Beaumont, TX, at the Knights of Columbus Hall. Since then they have continually brought a bluesy rock feel to the music industry with songs such as “Sharp Dressed Man” and “La Grange.” One of the most fascinating facets of ZZ Top’s sound is their experimentation with different genres.
“I think that ZZ Top has emerged as a band that, from their original roots, to where they were in the 80s or even now, they have continually evolved without losing their own perspective about their music,” Executive Director of the Norton Center Steve Hoffman said. “You can tell by their voices and by the beat that ‘Oh, that’s a ZZ Top song’ but their music changes. They start out as a more country/Tex-Mex from the early days to more rock and pop, more like the songs such as “Legs” that they play in the 80s. And their beards, of course, have made them very iconic.”
Co-lead vocalist and main lyricist and arranger for the band Billie Gibbons, is an original member of the band. For Gibbons, music has always been the number one priority, but it has its challenges.
“The biggest struggle and challenge has been to keep things fresh ’n’ funky on a continuing basis. We constantly change things up, experimenting with new ways to express LOUDNESS and keep everybody entertained — including us,” Gibbons said.
The band’s versatile music has paid off, as all together they possess 13 multi-platinum records. Their greatest memory as a group, however, is their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
“[There is] no way to “top” being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by none other than Keith Richards of the Rolling Stone,” Gibbons said.
The group is also touring with the famed The Ben Miller Band. The band formed in 2005 after lead vocalist Ben Miller, an open mike night host, met and began making music with percussionist Doug Dicharry and bassist Scott Leper. Leper’s instrument is a one of kind homemade one-strung washtub bass, and that is only one of the interesting aspects about them.
“The Ben Miller Band is a trio creating Americana/blues/rock kind of music,” Hoffman said. “They remind me of ZZ Top. They have their unique elements and they are true to what they do, and they don’t look like what’s conformed in general rock band. I think they are going to put on a fantastic show and a lot of the students will really like them.”
Being on tour can be a mix of extremely rewarding experiences and some drawbacks. “High points come often when touring with ZZTOP. Hardest part is riding in a van for weeks on end and the related problems that come with it. Like maintaining relationships, trying to eat healthy and strain on the body,” Leeper said.
But that is not to say that they aren’t excited and ready to please the crowd. “It seems like the audience is intensely paying attention to what we are doing. It’s a little more nerve racking, but also enjoyable, because when we put that extra effort into making a song pop, we know the audience is going to truly appreciate it,” Dicharry said.
ZZ Top is incredibly excited about the upcoming show and they have teasingly joked that “the groves of academia are not unknown to us, at least in terms of performance; but don’t spring a midterm on us with no warning.” The band has performed in big arenas and stadiums, but playing at a college is an experience they enjoy the experience immensely.
“Playing a college is something like playing a big house party for a room full of people who happen to be related,” Gibbons said. “It’s as if everybody’s in on the same secret on a certain level and, of course, to be on the ‘inside’ is the bonus. We’re certainly looking forward to puttin’ it down in a potent and powerful way. We’re gonna turn it up and rock it.”
After ZZ Top finishes this rescheduled tour this summer, the band will be traveling for a few months with the legendary Jeff Beck. After that tour, fans should be getting excited about a new album. “We’ll resume recording the ZZ new songs that are rattling around in our heads,” Gibbons said.