By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
In the relatively brief history of the venue, the EKU Center for the Arts has played host to a wide variety of events — plays, musicals, performance-art and concerts by artists from many different musical backgrounds.
Until Sunday, however, a real classic rock group had not taken the stage at the multi-million dollar facility.
ZZ Top ripped through a 90-minute set of familiar radio-friendly hits and also songs from their newest album, La Futura, much to the delight of a nearly packed house. The three-piece group from Texas played songs that spanned their five-decade career from Certified Blues (1971) to I Gotsta Get Paid (2012).
“We’ve been having a good time with you guys for 40 years,” lead singer and guitarist Billy Gibbons told the crowd. “It’s still just the three of us.”
Although each member of the legendary band, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, is in his 60s, the group still delivers a powerful and memorable live performance.
Gibbons’ thick, raspy blues-soaked voice sounded much the same is it did when the band released Eliminator, their best-selling album (10 million copies in America), 30 years ago. His guitar playing is still nothing less than awe-inspiring.
On several occasions, Gibbons drew huge ovations from the crowd with stunning solos that featured him playing one-handed.
On bass, Dusty Hill was rock-solid, as always, thumping out a sweaty, saucy groove. He also jumped into the lead vocalist role on the closing song of the set — Tush, off the 1975 album Fandango!
Frank Beard played his normal low-key role, pounded out the steady rhythm on the drums while barely being visible to the crowd behind his monster kit, which featured large skulls on the skins of both bass drums.
The opening half of the set included fan favorites like Waitin for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago, Pincushion and Heard It On the X.
But, most of the crowd jumped out of their seats when the band broke into Gimmie All Your Lovin’.
Blue Jean Blues, My Head’s In Mississippi, Certified Blues and Chartreuse (a song from their latest album) followed, before Hill and Gibbons broke out their trademark white, fuzzy guitars and launched into Legs, arguably the band’s most recognizable song.
The trio returned to the stage for a four-song encore, that started with Tube Snake Boogie. Viva Las Vegas, the Elvis cover recorded for the band’s 1992 Greatest Hits album, was up next up, followed by rock radio classics La Grange and Tush.
ZZ Top provided without a doubt the loudest and most rocking performance the EKU Center for the Arts has seen to date.
And the crowd loved it, showering the band with thunderous applause at the end of the show.
This may have been the first real ROCK show at the EKU Center, but hopefully it won’t be the last.