ZZ Top & Gov’t Mule Open Tour In Style Jones Beach NY 9-9-16

ZZ Top is a band like no other; not only is their sound and image unique, but so is their lineup of Billy Gibbons (guitar/vocals), Dusty Hill (bass/keyboards/vocals), and Frank Beard (drums/percussion). Having formed back in 1969 in Houston, Texas, they are one of a small group of bands that have never had a personnel change in their lineup since inception. Over the years, the band has released fifteen studio albums and has had many chart-topping hits. With record sales in the millions, they have four albums certified as Gold, three as Platinum, and two as Multi-Platinum. A rightful member of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame since 2004, this band has a devoted following of fans throughout the entire world.

Still heavily touring this far into their career, the summer of 2016 sees ZZ Top on the road once again, and at the tail end teaming up with Gov’t Mule for a special September run. Supporting the new release Live – Greatest Hits From Around The World, they kicked off the run with Gov’t Mule on the hot and humid evening of Friday, September 9th, at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, New York. Bringing a close to the 2016 concert season at the outdoor waterside venue, it was fully packed with fans ready for a good, grooving time. While the audience was mostly mature, age diversity could be found throughout the crowd  from grandparents to grandkids, all sitting together. In addition, there was no shortage of male fans with ultra long beards with their ladies decked out in pretty summer dresses, setting the scene for a fun night of Rock-n-Roll.

Up first, drawing a ton of excitement, was Southern Rock jam band Gov’t Mule. Originating as a side project of The Allman Brothers Band in 1994, Gov’t Mule has released an impressive collection of over twenty albums to date. Their latest album, The Tel-Star Sessions, is an archival release of demo songs recorded in 1994 with the original lineup – Warren Haynes, Matt Abts, and Allen Woody. The current lineup consists of Haynes (guitar/vocals), Abts (drums), Jorgen Carlsson (bass), and Danny Louis (keyboards/guitar/vocals).

Getting the party started, they arrived on stage and went right into the first song of the evening, “Bad Little Doggie,” from their 2000 release, Life Before Insanity. Inspiring many to move along to the jams, fans cheered away as they went into “Steppin’ Lightly,” from 2009’s By A Thread, and then “Mr. High & Mighty,” from 2006’s High & Mighty. Haynes took a moment to ask, “Hi, how are you tonight?” The audience screamed and clapped, letting him know they were doing just fine. From there, they kept the good mood grooving as they played “Inside Outside Woman Blues #3,” another off of By A Thread.

Already entrancing the theater’s patrons, as the dark of night took over the sky, the stage lighting was minimal as fog machines created a smokey atmosphere for the smooth jamming to continue with “Banks of the Deep End.” Taking another quick breather, Haynes once again thanked everyone for coming out and stated this was in fact the first night of their tour with ZZ Top. With a huge smile on his face, fans were screaming with excitement, and the band began a cover of The Allman Brothers Band song “Kind of Bird.”

A delightful mix of music, before doing their last song, Haynes expressed praise to the audience again and expressed excitement for being on the road with ZZ Top and returning to the wonderful setting of Jones Beach before going into “Thorazine Shuffle?” As they played the crowd favorite from their 1998 release, Dose, everyone was up on their feet swaying as the band jammed away. Haynes ended the evening by thanking the fans one last time, and it was clear by the cheering this audience enjoyed every minute of it.

Taking a break for intermission, the moon popped out in between rain clouds passing by. That said, a few raindrops fell during Gov’t Mule’s performance, but that did not dampen the fun. The venue’s seating areas were filling up tightly as the fans’ energy levels were rising as an impressive drum kit sat center stage with a wall of Magnatone amps to either side of it for headliners ZZ Top. Then, Beard, the only member of the band without a beard, walked out on stage with a freshly lit cigarette in his mouth and sat right down at his kit as a burst of cheers erupted from the crowd. In just moments, Gibbons and Hill strutted out with their guitars and blasted the fans with 1983’s “Got Me Under Pressure.” Then, taking everyone all the way back to 1973, they cranked out “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” from Tres Hombres. Rolling right along, they rocked the fun and sexy song “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” another from Eliminator.

Still so much ground to cover, as the fog machines were pumping away, ZZ Top charged into 1994’s “Pincushion,” and before moving along, Gibbons asked, “Are we having a good time tonight?” This provoked the audience to scream as Gibbons continued, “Gov’t Mule was tearing it up tonight!” Indeed true, the brief extra of words segued into crowd pleaser, “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” from 1979’s Deguello. Encouraging the audience to sing along during the chorus, once the song was over, Hill walked over to the keyboards while Gibbons said, “Hope you are having a good time, we’re going way down in the alley ’cause “I Gotsta Get Paid.” A treat from their 2012 album La Futura, Hill remained on the keys for 1985’s “Rough Boy,” showing the guys could jump decades of their catalogue with ease.

Wanting to switch things up a bit, Gibbons said, “Oh yes, we’re gonna go way back now.” With that, they played a fantastic version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” Keeping the momentum going, Gibbons asked, “Can we do a lil Blues tonight?” With the fans screaming “yea,” Hill took to the microphone to sing the classic “Catfish Blues,” which was originally done by Robert Petway and also covered by the aforementioned Mr. Hendrix. Keeping the mood loose, Gibbons spoke about it being time to do something weird, about how they got together with Jeff Beck while on a tour a few years back, and how these two Rock acts got together to play a Country song. He also mentioned that a version of the song could be found on their new album. After this, they blasted into “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford and the audience loved it as they cheered the whole way through.

Moving along, Gibbons said, “Time to put on those ‘Cheap Sunglasses,’” and with a huge burst of cheers the fans sang to every word as they danced at their seats. With a nice little smile on his face, Gibbons announced, “Time to drink a lil whisky!” as they started to play the song “Chartreuse,” another from La Futura, before wasting no time to go into crowd-pleasing sing-a-long, “Sharp Dressed Man.” An inclination that something was about to happen, Gibbons and Hill briefly left the stage, then came back out sporting their white furry custom guitars to perform their unforgettable hit “Legs,” where many were now spilling into the aisles dancing and singing along in spite of the intensified rain.

With the signature cut concluding the night, the lights went dim as the band quietly left. Hoping this was not the end, the audience screamed and cheered for “one more song,” over and over. After several minutes, they got exactly what they wanted as ZZ Top returned to the stage, to a blaze of excitement, as they played a two song encore of their smash hits “La Grange” and “Tush.”  One last chance to dance and sing along, this crowd took full advantage and, at times, were louder than the band. With one final “Thank you” from Gibbons, satisfaction could be seen on all the faces of all in attendance as they set to head home.

The final music concert of the all too short summer concert season at Jones Beach, ZZ Top’s performance was exhilarating and full of vibrancy. These three well-seasoned musicians played effortlessly together, as all the years they have been together were clearly evident. Gibbons and Hill’s vocals were absolutely spot-on, and it is so fun to see them sway together as they smoothly jammed away on their instruments. Beard kept his heavy beats coming, making it easy for the fans to let loose and dance freely. Their tour with Gov’t Mule concludes on September 20th, but they will continue rocking throughout the United States till mid November, so be sure to catch them before the end of the year.


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