Little ol' band from Texas boogies at that big ol' rodeo
By MICHAEL D. CLARK
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

How's this for an unbelievable RodeoHouston fact? In 37 years at the Reliant
Astrodome, Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan had all performed at
the annual cowboy carnival that is the pride of East Texas. But until
Thursday night, local legend ZZ Top never had.


Christobal Perez / Chronicle
The bearded ones, Billy Gibbons, right, and Dusty Hill, perform their magic
as ZZ Top rocked RodeoHouston for the first time Feb. 21.
How is it that "that little ol' band from Texas" never played the Lone Star
State's grandest hometown event?

ZZ Top almost didn't make it for the rodeo's last year in the Dome. When the
RodeoHouston concert lineup was first announced last month young country
stars Phil Vassar and Jamie O'Neal were scheduled as Thursday's
post-competition talent. A late scheduling conflict jettisoned that
double-bill and opened the chute for guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty
Hill and drummer Frank Beard to ride.

ZZ Top made the most of the opportunity, treating a capacity crowd to a
15-song, 70-minute set of their FM hits and old blues-based favorites.

Casual fans who have lost track of ZZ Top since it sold 10 million copies of
its mid-'80s albums Eliminator and Afterburner were welcomed to jump back in
the chuck wagon. Dressed in black sequined outlaw jackets and cowboy hats
and wearing not-so-cheap sunglasses, the trio opened with early electric
blues favorite Tube Snake Boogie and were quickly up to their cherished
tricks.

Ageless under beards that almost reached their bellies, Gibbons croaked like
an old Mississippi blues codger while Hill chased him with higher melody. On
guitar breaks they would synchronize their hip waggling so their harnessed
instruments swayed as one.

The boys got old school for a long-loyal audience, playing dirty licks on
Jesus Just Left Chicago, and I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide. Kids, young adults and
even fans who remember the group's early '70s blues beginnings couldn't help
but be seduced by the big radio hits.

The fret-finger strut of Under Pressure, was given an arena rock welcome.
And anybody who didn't appreciate the chunka-chunka sound Gibbons created
with the friction of his strings rubbed against his leg just doesn't
appreciate the drunken majesty of Southern rock.

Gimme All Your Lovin' has progressed since its chart-riding heyday 20 years
ago, from an above average piece of guitar rock to a gut-bucket anthem. Much
appreciated was Sharp-Dressed Man, which hasn't changed a bit.

A final bow of ZZ Top's greatest contribution to rock radio, Legs, was yet
one more moment the Dome can be proud of in its final days. As thousands
chanted "She's got legs ... ," the bearded ones brought out the legendary
fur-lined guitars for a spin. They exited, of course, in the 1933 burnt-red
Ford coupe known as the "Eliminator."

RodeoHouston? ZZ Top? How did y'all ever live without each other?


(Thanks to Lew Fincher for sending in the article.)