Over the Top

Drunk dude in the bathroom had it all wrong—ZZ Top rules over Nuge

BILLY &amp; THE BOYS <br>ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons (right) and bassist Dusty Hill lay down the mainstream Texas rock that kept the ’70s and early ’80s jumping at Sleep Train Amphitheatre last Friday evening. Motor City Madman Ted Nugent opened the show.

BILLY & THE BOYS
ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons (right) and bassist Dusty Hill lay down the mainstream Texas rock that kept the ’70s and early ’80s jumping at Sleep Train Amphitheatre last Friday evening. Motor City Madman Ted Nugent opened the show.

Photo By Tom Angel

ZZ Top Ted Nugent Sleep Train Amphitheatre Friday, June 6

We arrived to the opening chords of “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.” After a vigorous pat-down—thankfully not too vigorous—we stocked up on beverages and found our way to our seats. The Motor City Madman was launching into another tirade.

“This one’s dedicated to the Dixie Chicks. It’s called ‘Kiss My Ass!'”

Amps draped in camo netting, fake sandbags and a huge American flag gave Ted Nugent’s stage setting the feel of a Ruby Ridge memorial concert. If terrorists had attacked Marysville Friday night, the Nuge would have been ready for them, having several real-looking weapons strewn about on stage with him.

One of the leading conservative thinkers of his day, Nugent, though apparently too old to swing around in a loincloth these days, can still crank out power chords with the best of them. The problem is with his retarded shtick—every time he starts to lose the audience he pushes the patriotism button, and the dumb saps in the stands eat it up. (Even I had to cheer when he busted out a bow and arrow and pegged a cutout of Saddam Hussein right in the stomach.)

I don’t know what their politics are, but the three members of ZZ Top have infinitely more class than the Nuge and are better musicians to boot. It was interesting to note how the crowd responded to both acts, because although they play well on FM radio together, they couldn’t have been more different live.

ZZ Top took the stage in bejeweled, velvet ponchos but soon ditched them for black jackets and rhinestone-studded cowboy hats. Opening with “Give Me All Your Lovin',” Gibbons, Hill and Beard put out over an hour’s worth of hits, interspersing their trademark Texas blues with innocuous goodtime banter and copious odes to sex and alcohol.

Gibbons, in fine form as an old showman, introduced his guitar before himself or the band. It was a beauty too, supposedly a gift from Bo Diddley, whom Gibbons made a point to name-drop in his gravelly, Texas-bad-man accent. Some guitar snobs will try to tell you Gibbons has never been that great of a guitar player, but that’s a load of crap. Gibbons rules the electric guitar. He and his band have been around for three decades of strife and abuse, and despite having dozens of hit songs under their belt, they still play with unrivaled sincerity.

Actually, drummer Frank Beard looked kind of annoyed to be there, but it didn’t seem to affect his playing. Not a showy drummer but an excellent timekeeper, he gave a backbone to Dusty Hill’s kick-in-the-stomach bass.

ZZ Top’s stage show consisted of some dancing Mexican skeletons and a couple of hired hoochies who ran out on stage to be fake-tackled by the road crew. It was sparse by comparison to Nugent’s overblown antics, but then, who needs gimmicks when you’re sporting a two-foot beard? As pot smoke washed over the cheap seats and granny groupies kicked off their high heels, Dusty, Billy and Frank sent us down the road around 11 p.m. with their classic roadhouse number, "La Grange." If only I had one of those cool cars like in the "Legs" video.