Concert Review: ZZ Top at the Main Street Armory


Rochesterians love their synchronicity. And no, I’m not talking about the Ice Capades, I’m going on about ZZ Top, which delivered a primal killer-diller rock ’n’ roll display Friday night at The Main Street Armory for around 3,000 fans. The band strolled out onto a relatively sparse stage summa cum loud and immediately launched into three classics: the band’s version of Sam and Dave’s “Thank You,” “Waitin’ On The Bus,” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago.” (Speaking of Jesus, he had a couple of his loudmouthed minions out front beating their bibles and warning us about the lake of fire we would all be bathing in thanks to ZZ Top.) The trio took the chill out the damp night with rumbling hellfire and a swaggering, laid-back back beat and that aforementioned synchronicity. Whether it was a casual leg-wiggle or a fuzzy guitar’s 360, the crowd went bananas when guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill pulled the old soft shoe a la Hope and Crosby.

Gibbons’ guitar tone was thick and swampy as he sung in a lowdown growl so husky it could have been pulled by a dog sled. A little trivia for you tone hounds: Gibbons plays on .07 gauge strings, even though they sound big enough to be suspension-bridge cables. It seemed to me there were too many drums for the simple rhythm and swing the band churns out, even on thundering classics like “Heard it On The X.” The band dug generously into its lengthy catalogue, including its popular 80’s electronic-ified stuff like “Legs” and “Sharp-Dressed Man,” which frankly I dig the least. Thankfully, the Texas trio’s new album “La Futura” leans back into that comfy boogie we all like wallowing in, just like a big ol’ lake-of-fire bubblebath.

Tommy Brunett opened the show and knocked out an immaculate infield homer with a brief set of honkified rock ’n’ tonk. The crowd was receptive and clearly drove the band (now with guitar meister Mike Gladstone upping the six-string ante) into an immediate, full-set crescendo. Good on ya, Tommy.

Fellow wordsmith, saxophonist, and dark soul Charles Benoit brought his rocksteady pals in Some Ska Band to do just that at Tala Vera Saturday night. The joint was saturated and sardined to capacity as the band put its fingerprints on Two-Tone and Studio One classics from the likes of Toots and the English Beat. The band is loose in its newness, but comfortable in its knowledge and obvious love of ska, even though the style may have its own horn-filled fire lake.