ZZ Top + Thunder
Wednesday 24th June 2015
Wembley Arena, London
Just hours before the gig - the eager anticipation of a night to remember was already palpable in The Blue Check Bar in Empire Way, Wembley - a plethora of Thunder and ZZ Top t-shirts proudly on display - reinforcing that feel good factor. The WRC not to be outdone - were out in force as well - the ranks bolstered by Route 66's Rory Auskerry and his brother Hamish (see our picture gallery here). To say we were not disappointed with the gig would be an understatement - in fact it exceeded our expectations - the consummate professionalism of Thunder with Danny Bowes at the helm who seem to get better every time we see them - and if ZZ Top are not the consummate of cool personified - then we would like to know who is. We witnessed a blistering set from the Houston Rockers that not only ended with a (hi ho) silver lining but also literally icing on the cake as Jeff Beck guested on his 71st birthday!
Anyway after a few cheeky beers in The Blue Check we timed it perfectly as we made our way into Wembley Arena to be greeted by the sound of Thunder’s intro ‘Thunderstruck’! Perfectly positioned to the left of the stage they kicked off with ‘Dirty Love’ (what a great opener) and proceeded to reel off the ‘The Best Of Thunder 1989 – 1995’ which coincidentally is the name of their new CD due to be released on 17th July. Funny that - but no complaints from us as they blasted through their short set with their usual explosive mix of Rock such as ‘Wonder Days’ and ‘Backstreet Symphony’ plus their signature ballad ‘Love Walked In’. ‘I Love You More Than Rock ‘N’ Roll’ was a classic finale but left you wanting more. And that was it. Respect to Danny and the boys - the audience were now loaded up and ready to fire on all cylinders - and even better for us, we managed to manoeuvre ourselves centrally about ten standing rows from the front! A big shout out also to the Brummie boys who stood next to us!
ZZ Top were one of the first proponents of the video promo age so the stage was set up with two giant screens either side of Frank Beard’s huge kit in the middle. But these guys proved on the night that they do not need any props other than their beards and their cheap sunglasses! To be fair their choreography is so subtle but cool and complements their unique Rock delivery. ‘Got Me Under Pressure’, Waitin’ For The Bus’ and ‘Jesus Left Chicago’ got everyone into the groove before their first big hitter of the evening - ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ - was delivered along with that shiny car and the pretty girls in the background. Loved it. Back to the choreography and Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill played matching instruments for most of the set – a battered red guitar and bass plus also, if I’m not mistaken, those guitars from Back To The Future – the only disappointment of the night being that they didn’t rotate!
‘I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide’, ‘Pincushion’ and the more recent and underrated ‘I Gotsta Get Paid’ followed before their traditional deserved homage to the great guitar man himself and 'Foxy Lady' – cue background change from pretty girl to Hendrix! Another cover of Robert Petway’s 'Catfish Blues' was deliciously backed up by ‘Cheap Sunglasses’, ‘My Head’s In Mississippi’ and ‘Chartreuse’ - building up to final big hitters ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ and ‘Legs’. Seeing ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ live should be on everyone’s bucket list and before we knew it the guys were off and back on again for that special Jeff Beck encore – which brought back memories of the first time I saw that space age vid of ‘Rough Boy’ on TV. By now we were putty in their hands as this newly formed Anglo/US alliance belted out Merle Travis’ ‘Sixteen Tons’, ‘La Grange/Sloppy Drunk Jam’ and of course finally ‘Tush’. It doesn’t get much better than this!