The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater was the scene of rock ‘n’ roll history this time last year as ZZ Top performed to a nearly sold-out crowd.
The July 31, 2021 show was the band’s first show since the death of founding member Dusty Hill at the age of 72. Hill died just days before the show in Tuscaloosa, prompting ZZ Top to cancel a South Carolina gig.
Hill’s death put the Tuscaloosa concert in limbo for a moment, until the remaining members of ZZ Top decided to continue with the band’s 20-something guitar tech, Elwood Francis, as Hill’s replacement.
While some rock bands have many personnel changes, ZZ Top’s line-up of guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Hill and drummer Frank Beard has remained unchanged for 50 years. The band even boasted about presenting “the same three types and the same three chords”.
“We’re going to have a good time in here tonight,” Gibbons told the crowd in Tuscaloosa last year after the opening song, “Got Me Under Pressure,” according to Rolling Stone, who gave me the instruction. My friend, your mate, Elwood Francis will hold it behind me.
CONCERT REVIEW: ZZ Top is playing the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater for the first time since Dusty Hill’s death
Francis, who replaced Hill on the early dates of the 2021 tour, sported a ZZ Top-appropriate beard during the history-making Tuscaloosa show.
This new ZZ Top line-up was enthusiastically received by the Tuscaloosa audience.
“Most in the packed venue … rose and danced from the first note to the last, even those whose hair still grew full white by the ’70s, their vintage ‘Eliminator’ and ‘Recycler’ tour T-shirts strained by age range,” read The Tuscaloosa News’ story of the concert.
Gibbons adapted some of the song’s lyrics that night to pay tribute to Alabama.
“On the 1990 hit ‘My Head’s in Mississippi,’ he was loosely playing with lyrics again after hearing a scream from the crowd. Gibbons spoke over the rhythms, “I know there’s some rivalry going on tonight. I heard that ‘Roll Tide’. “
“From that point on, he sang ‘I’m shuffling through the Texas sand/but my head’s in Alabama,’ and invited the crowd to sing along.
“The trio closed with ‘Tush,’ in which Gibbons stretched to sing Hill’s tenor lines. Midway through the slide solo, Gibbons, assisted by a roadie, lit a cigar, another classic piece of standard shtick indicating that it’s night, that night came to an end anyway.”
ZZ Top performed 17 songs at the July 31, 2021 concert at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, including the band’s signature hits and some surprise tunes.
• Got Me Under Pressure (from the 1983 album Eliminator)
• I Thank You (from the 1979 album Degüello, originally recorded by Sam and Dave)
• Waiting for the Bus (from the 1973 album Tres Hombres)
• Jesus Just Left Chicago (from the 1973 album Tres Hombres)
• Gimme All Your Lovin’ (from the 1983 album Eliminator)
• Necklace of Pearls (from the 1981 album “El Loco”)
• I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide (from the 1979 album “Degüello”)
• I Gotsta Get Paid (from the 2012 album La Futura)
• My Head is in Mississippi (from the 1990 album “Recycler”)
• Sixteen Tons (cover of Merle Travis song made famous by Tennessee’s Ernie Ford)
• Just Got Paid (from the 1972 album Rio Grande Mud)
• Sharply Dressed Man (from the 1983 album Eliminator)
• Legs (from the 1983 album Eliminator)
• Brown Sugar (from 1971’s “ZZ Top’s First Album”)
• La Grange (from the 1973 album Tres Hombres)
• Tush (from the 1975 album “Fandango!”)
Where are you now
ZZ Top continues touring this year, with shows scheduled for this weekend in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The tour will continue through the end of the year with a series of concerts slated for December in Las Vegas.
In a recent interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Gibbons praised Francis for bringing a “robust energy” to the band.
ZZ Top also just released a new live album, Raw: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas Original Soundtrack, which features the trio’s final recordings with Hill. The album accompanies a Grammy-nominated documentary about the band.
Reach Ken Roberts at [email protected].