ZZ TOP AT THE BERGENPAC
Texas Swamp Boogie Rolls Through the Swamps of Jersey
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ZZ Top have gone back to the future with the release of their first studio album in nine years called La Futura. The Texas-based trio's latest effort has been called a return to form for the blues rockers known for their swagger and sex-drenched radio friendly catalogue. To celebrate - Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard, and Dusty Hill have launched a major tour in support of the album that hit the BergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey on May 14, 2013.

ZZ Top Rocks the bergenPAC in Englewood
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ZZ Top take the stage at the BergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey.

Since the release of the band's debut album in January 1971, ZZ Top has become known for its strong blues roots and humorous lyrical motifs, relying heavily on double entendres and innuendo. ZZ Top's musical style has changed over the years, beginning with blues-inspired rock on their early albums, then incorporating New Wave, punk rock and dance-rock, with heavy use of synthesizers.

ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. As a group, ZZ Top possesses 11 gold records and 7 platinum (13 multi-platinum) records; their 1983 album, Eliminator, remains the group's most commercially successful record, selling over 10 million units. ZZ Top also ranks 80th in U.S. album sales, with 25 million units.

Shortly after 9 p.m. the three musical men kicked off their set with "Precious and Grace" from their Tres Hombres album. This was one of three tracks from that popular 1974 recording that would be played during the night. ZZ Top quickly moved into "Heartache in Blue" from the new release. The opening double shot found the house mix a bit muddy with guitarist and singer Billy Gibbons' vocals somewhat buried. As the night moved on things did improve rapidly.

The band played an impressive 90 minutes of music that spanned their career with many deep cuts thrown in for good measure. They went all the way back for "Certified Blues" from their first record which proved that ZZ Top has been true to their sound and style over the years. Upon the completion of this number a fan in the front row held up a vinyl version of the new record that Billy reached out and grabbed. Attached was a Sharpee marker.

ZZ Top Rocks the bergenPAC in Englewood
Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons have been the mainstay of ZZ Top's two-guitar attack for over forty years.

"Boy, did I fall for this," Gibbons remarked. "I guess I need to sign it now," he added before passing it over to Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard guaranteeing that one fan got the best souvenir of the night. Before handing it back over Gibbons quickly jested by taking on the persona of an auctioneer starting off the bidding for the precious platter at 150 dollars.

The capacity crowd fell for ZZ Top as well, especially when they played songs from their blockbusting "Eliminator" album which eliminated all doubts about the Top's ability to write chart-topping radio friendly hits and helped them soar to the top of the rock pack in the musically rich eighties.

"Gimme All Your Lovin' ", "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs" all were greeted with loud cheers and these numbers especially livened up the house and had the crowd up on their feet and grooving along. Throughout the night Gibbons' guitar work was most impressive while he also growled and scowled behind the mic. The rhythm section proficiently powered the presentation and the evening was enhanced by an ever changing light and video presentation.

For the encores the band relied on their best known numbers from the seventies portion of their catalogue and an Elvis cover of "Viva Las Vegas" that completed the theme. Fans were boogieing along to "Tube Snake Boogie" and kept their butts shaking through "Tush" which completed the Top's successful romp through the swamp.

ZZ Top Rocks the bergenPAC in Englewood
The Ben Miller Band received a standing ovation for their eclectic and electric set of bluesy bluegrass music.

Opening for ZZ Top was a beard-endowed trio hailing from Joplin, Missouri. The Ben Miller Band provided an engaging set that presented a mix of bluegrass, delta blues and authentic Appalachian mountain music. Comprised of Ben Miller, Scott Leeper, and Doug Dicharry the threesome won over the crowd with their 40-minute slot featuring their spirited and unique creations and a cover of the traditional "House of the Rising Sun".

Namesake Ben Miller played a lot of wicked slide and some banjo while bass-player Scott Leeper took a more single-minded approach -- playing only one single string on an amped up washtub bass. From our seat drummer and percussionist Doug Dicharry got the most praise from attendees as he also added mandolin, trombone, trumpet and an electrified washboard to the proceedings. Together the Ben Miller Band shined with their three part vocal approach on solid songs that included "It's Hard To Be Here" and "I Got Another One" resulting in roars of approval from the crowd and a standing ovation at the end of their performance.

ZZ TOP SETLIST: Precious and Grace / Heartache in Blue / Waitin' for the Bus / Jesus Just Left Chicago / Tres Hombres / Flyin' High / Pincushion / Heard it on the X / I Gotsta Get Paid / Gimme All Your Lovin' / A Fool for Your Stockings / My Head's in Mississippi / Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings / Certified Blues / Chartreuse / Sharp Dressed Man / Legs / Encore Tube Snake Boogie / Viva Las Vegas / La Grange / Sloppy Drunk / Bar-B-Q / Tush

About Bergen Performing Arts Center: Known as The John Harms Center for 27 years, this cultural hub in Englewood, has been reborn as Bergen Performing Arts Center or bergenPAC. This 1367-seat theater, currently in its ninth season, is a landmark and remains one of the finest acoustic halls in the United States. The legendary Tony Bennett and Canadian crooner k.d. lang recorded their 2003 Grammy award-winning CD live on bergenPAC's own stage through a broadband fiber-optic connection with Bennett Studios. bergenPAC is the home of a media production system that is unparalleled, upholding its reputation as a venue for outstanding music, dance and theater. As a non-profit corporation, bergenPAC has thrived thanks to the aid and generosity of sponsors, donors and patrons.

ZZ Top Rocks the bergenPAC in Englewood
The Ben Miller Band: Down-home authentic mountain music finds its way to the cliffs of Bergen County.

Related Links: For more information on ZZ TOP and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - ZZ Top | Ben Miller Band | bergenPAC.org

(Originally Published on May 15, 2013)

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