Earlier this month, Lyle Lovett packed the Chicago Theatre with his Large Band. As the month of August draws to a close, Chicago will be visited by another “little ol’ band from Texas.” Veteran blues rock trio ZZ Top performs at the Ravinia Festival on Aug. 27.
The prodigiously bearded group’s most recent studio album is 2012’s “La Futura.” Songs from the album including the gritty “I Gotsta Get Paid” have become set list staples alongside “La Grange” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’.” The trio is also supporting a recent, 40-song greatest hits package called “The Very Baddest.” Highlights of the collection mirror those in ZZ Top’s live show, including classic rock staples “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Tush” and the slow boogie “Jesus Just Left Chicago.”
ZZ Top’s three principals have worked together since 1969, with occasional time for excursions outside their flagship band. Bassist Dusty Hill once toured with late Texas blues legend Freddie King, and in early days formed the rhythm section for Lightnin’ Hopkins alongside drummer Frank Beard. Guitarist Billy Gibbons releases his debut solo album “Perfectamundo” in October with side project the BFG’s [sic]. The album’s Afro-Cuban rhythms reflect childhood percussion lessons with Tito Puente.
Gibbons has described growing up near Houston, Texas, with the music of major rhythm and blues influences including T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Reed, Albert Collins, and Ray Charles as a lifelong presence. Gibbons remains a joyful and animated player, stepping in time with the infectious blues and boogie rhythms of Beard and Hill.
“If you’re doing it right, there’s no reason why you can’t be dancing,” said Gibbons during a 2013 Guitar Moves interview with host Matt Sweeney. “You’ve got to move your feet to get it back up into the hands. And then if you get it up in the hands, then it’s going to go out to those in the seat. And then they’re going to get up on their feet.”
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.