Amid the comings and goings, glories and disappointments of rock’s current reformation culture, it’s reassuring to note that some things never change.
“We’ve been together 45 years,” said ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons from beneath the most familiar face furniture in music. “Same three guys, same three chords.”
It’s a snappy quote but one that does the Texan band a disservice. Their set shifted from the dirty howl of 1971’s Certified Blues to the polished MTV pulse of Legs. They did Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady while one new song from last year’s album La Futura (their first for nine years) was a cover of a Nineties hip hop single by rapper DJ DMD. I Gotsta Get Paid was a lumbering beast of a tune, a great showcase for Gibbons’s battery-acid growl.
Nevertheless, their reputation is for simple pleasures, laid out straight away by the big screen visuals accompanying the opening song, Got Me Under Pressure – girls, spark plugs and explosions. Songs featuring hot rods and liquor made Hammersmith feel American for the night. During Flyin’ High, another snappy new one, a video procession of leggy models distracted from the decidedly unsexy Father Christmases on stage.
In black sequinned jackets, exchanged for purple ones for the encore, Gibbons and jolly bassist Dusty Hill played up to the amusement value of watching two such similar individuals moving in sync. During Legs they sent themselves up with pink fluffy guitars, but there was nothing cute about some of the solos erupting from Gibbons’s instrument. Jesus Just Left Chicago was a heavy blues song with a brutal beat.
The crowd played its part, a mass of unsightly individuals singing that “Every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man”. There was much fun to be had from a formula that still ain’t broke in its fifth decade.