Live with ZZ Top

ZZ Top brings their live album to Rose Music Center

Frank Beard (left), Billy Gibbons (middle), and Dusty Hill (right); photo: Ross Halfin

By Alan Sculley

This September, ZZ Top fans will get the chance to enjoy something the group as rarely done in a career that now stretches more than 40 years – a live album.

Called Live – Greatest Hits From Around The Globe, the album features concert performances of 15 of the best known songs from across the career of that “Lil’ Ol’ Band from Texas.”

It’s not the band’s first live album. The catalog includes a 2008 release, Live From Texas (recorded in 2007) and 2001 saw the release of a show from the archives, Live In Germany 1980. Eagle Rock Records has also released a pair of concert DVDs, Live at Montreaux 2013 (released in 2014) and Double Down Live in 2009 that combined the 1980 show from Germany and performances from 2007 and 2008. Clearly big chunks of ZZ Top’s career have never been documented in the live setting, which has been a bit of a frustration for bassist Dusty Hill.

“If you remember way back, there’s an album Fandango! that’s half live and the other half is studio,” Hill says of the 1975 album in a recent phone interview. “We were going to do a live album then, but that’s the way it worked out. It’s always stuck in my craw a little bit through all these years that we never really finished a live album.”

The problem is not a lack of live recordings from across ZZ Top’s career. Hill says the band for years has recorded sound checks and concerts.

“We have an enormous amount of (live) material,” he says. “Since we had that good habit of recording things and we play so many shows, and we have for so many years, you know, yeah you come away with a lot of material.”

Live – Greatest Hits From Around The Globe helps fill in some gaps in the group’s live discography by bringing together some of the best performances from the past 11 years of touring of ZZ Top’s most popular songs on one album.

The band members – Hill, singer/guitarist Billy Gibbons, and drummer Frank Beard – were involved in listening to hours of live recordings from which the performances on Live – Greatest Hits From Around The Globe were chosen. It was quite the undertaking, Hill says and the 15 tracks included on the album lean toward songs from the 1970s (“La Grange”, “Tush”, and “Tube Snake Boogie”) as well as three hits (“Legs”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, and “Gimme All Your Lovin’”) from the 1980s when ZZ Top added synthesizers and a bit poppier element to its bluesy rock sound and became MTV favorites with the sly and sexy videos of those songs.

Hill says there are certainly other concerts in the band’s vault that are of releasable quality – and putting out some archival live albums is an idea he’d like to explore.

“All this material, whatever the future holds, I don’t know, but it’s certainly something to think about,” Hill says.

For now, Hill is mainly concerned with playing live, as ZZ Top has begun a run of shows that has the trio on the road until mid-November.

The extensive schedule of shows is good news for fans of ZZ Top.

In 2014, ZZ Top had to cancel shows when Hill first dealt with illness, and then later that year when he fell on the band’s tour bus and injured his hip. Then in April 2016, Hill suffered a fractured shoulder when he tripped on steps at a venue in Lubbock, Texas, forcing the group to nix a run of spring concerts.

The latter injury was especially concerning because it affected Hill’s ability to play bass.

“When I had the accident, the first thing I did was wiggle my fingers,” Hill says. “I got so freaked out that I hurt my hands. I didn’t think about my shoulder until I started to get up. ‘Oh-oh, it doesn’t work.’ At the time I was thinking it was dislocated, that’s what I was hoping. And I was trying to get somebody to pop it back so I could play. And I’m glad they didn’t do it because I had an X-ray done and it was broken. Had they pulled on it, it would have been a lot worse.”

Hill had to rehab the shoulder at home and was well enough to do a European tour that preceded the latest series of U.S. tours.

“I rehabbed up to the point to where we hopped over and did a month in Europe,” Hill says. “I kind of finished rehabbing my shoulder on stage over there. So it’s back and I’m doing well.”

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Alan Sculley
Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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