Where were you when ZZ Top played in Abbotsford? That’s the question that the next generations of Abbotsfordians will be asking their elders for many years to come. For the fans that were at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre last night, the answer will be strong and clear.
The 40-year old Texas rock band, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Billy Gibbons, vocalist/bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard, pulled into the Fraser Valley for a concert at the new AESC to a warm and receptive crowd. The audience may have lacked in size, but they sounded as if they were 20,000 strong as the band took to the stage with their opening number Got Me Under Pressure from the Diamond awarded Eliminator album.
Fans of all sorts, but mostly above the age of 30, came out donning bandanas, headbands, sunglasses and cowboy boots for an evening of the best southern rock this side of the planet. It was also a chance for the rocker crowd to dust off the ol’ leather pants for a night as several audience members were spotted wearing the 80s rock staple. One man even sported a pair of red snakeskin leather pants for the occasion.
ZZ guitarist and frontman Billy Gibbons had some interaction with the audience, but when it came down to it, the music mattered more. In fact, this show, with its minimalist stage, was more about music than flash and fireworks right from the start. With the exception of their trademarked synchronized swagger and choreographed sways, ZZ Top just wanted to play.
The band, which still consists of its original founding members, appeared to take the stage with no prepared set list taped to the floor by their microphones and charged through tracks spanning most of their 40 year career. Some of the older hits from the 70s, like I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide and Cheap Sunglasses revved the crowd up, but it was the 80s hits from the Eliminator album that got the crowd in hysterics – Sharp Dressed Man, Gimme All Your Lovin’ and Legs. A ZZ-tized version of Jimmy Hendrix’ Foxy Lady was also a nice touch as the song kicked off with an image of the legendary guitarist on the giant screen behind the band.
It was a bit surprising that the band’s choice of encores was older hits like Tube Snake Boogie, La Grange and Tush rather than the Eliminator material, but once you got to see the fan reaction to hearing those classics, it became evident that ZZ Top knew their audience better than anyone else would have.
Opening act, Canadian country star Charlie Major was a little out of his element and seemed uninterested in his performance, although the audience gave him an appreciative nod. Turning a country act up on their Marshall amps does not make them a rock act and actually gave Major an overall bad distorted sound. His soulful voice and upbeat country tracks would have gone off better had he left it at “country volume.”
It should be said that the new AESC is a well designed arena, easy to navigate through and cozy enough that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Additionally, small touches like the black curtain that spanned the entire width of the arena at the back of the stage to cover the unused end of the arena showed that a lot of attention to detail has gone into the creation of the facility.
More photos will be published shortly.
ZZ Top / Charlie Major
November 22, 2009
Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre
Review by Dan Savoie
Photos by David Lai