Doswell, VA – They tried, Lord knows, they tried! For the week leading up to September 22, 2021, the mere laypeople known as weather forecasters tried to paint a dismal picture of the weather on that day. Visions of downpours, thunder, and lightning filled the minds of those anticipating a return of ZZ Top to a Richmond area stage. This year it was going to be a very special show, as it was to be the first ZZ Top performance those in the area had seen without their legendary bassist Dusty Hill, who had passed away in July. Dusty is said to have emphatically told guitarist (and Reverend) Billy Gibbons to bring in longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis to take his place.
As show time neared, the laypeople continued their narrative of, “it’s going to be a lousy night for the After Hours Concert” held at Servpro Pavilion. On the 30 minute drive to the venue it was not looking good. As expected, torrents of rain slowed traffic considerably on the already congested I-95 freeway north of Richmond. Then something happened. At virtually the instant I pulled into the parking lot, the sheets of water falling from the sky turned to a light drizzle. The weather app showed a couple hours of light rain with a chance of heavier storms about half way through the show. As showtime neared, the forecast continued to improve, however, according to the laypeople, clouds would dominate the sky overlooking the event.
When the opening act, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, took the stage, the air was dry. Could it be that the Reverend had called in some favors? With Reverend Peyton on Guitar, “Washboard” Breezy Peyton on washboard (and other percussion) and Max Senteney on drums, they proceeded to deliver a revival of country rock blues music that would put the fear of God into any impending storm front. They played a mix of tunes, including “Ways and Means”, “Poor Until Payday”, and “Clap Your Hands” (what would a revival be without hand clapping?). The forecast was looking a lot better about now.
As Reverend Peyton left the stage the last glimmer of cloud masked daylight was disappearing. It was obvious that the revival led by Reverend Peyton had fended off the rain, but the laypeople still insisted on cloud cover, with light rain, through the night, but the heavier storms were delayed until morning. Give me an amen!
Not to be outdone, ZZ Top took the stage to deliver a down home Texas rock revival of their own and NO ONE was going to put a damper on it. Kicking it off with “Got Me Under Pressure” the crowd immediately got to their feet, hands in the air, showing praise and appreciation for the band. The Reverend Billy Gibbons (guitar) presided as Elwood Francis accompanied with a pounding bass and drummer Frank Beard kept the feet stomping.
After a few more songs, including, “I Thank You” and “Waitin For The Bus“, giving Elwood the opportunity to show off some of his bass skills, they went into “Jesus Just Left Chicago“. To pay tribute to the late Dusty Hill (eternal ZZ Top bassist), we were told, “Dusty Hill is still my name”… Hearing those words and looking to the sky, I was amazed, I could see the stars! Was this the power of the revival?
After “Pearl Necklace“, Billy looked back on 2020 and the last year plus. Billy said, “It is great to be out again!” to the approval of the crowd. Getting a cheering laugh, he asked, “What did we do for the last year? I don’t remember what I did for the last year. I know what I did not do, I did not cut the grass!” Billy then pointed out that new bass player Elwood had not shaved either, “They are real whiskers”. ZZ Top would not be the same without whiskers! And the stars were still visible in the night sky!
“How about something a little more bluesy tonight?” asked Billy, as they turned the distortion up to 11 and did a little “I Gotsa Get Paid“. About this time, a co-worker (whose father raised her right) looked at me and said, “Oh my God, I can’t believe it, I am 24 years old and seeing ZZ Top live!!”. The power of the revival was in the air!
After “My Head’s in Mississippi“, Billy told a story about the day he made a call to London to talk to Jeff Beck which led to their version of the song, “16 Tons” made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford. The crowd sang along to “16 tons, what do ya get? Another day older and deeper in debt…” to which Billy noted, “So y’all know this song?… I wish we did!”
The fuzzy guitars came out and we all knew what was to follow. A pounding version of “Legs” filled the night air. Young and old alike were dancing under the starry sky. Being the last song of their main set, they exited the stage to a huge standing O.
The encore included “Brown Sugar“, “La Grange” (click the link to get a little La Grange history!), finishing off with “Tush“. About half way through “Tush” my co-worker looked at me and said, “My Lord, they’re not singing! That’s Dusty singing!” What a special way to end the night, with a subtle tribute to Dusty, including him in the show.
When leaving the venue, clouds had started to fill the sky once again and then a light drizzle started to come down. It made me think back to the earthly laypeople acting as weather forecasters. Some will think it may be a little hokey to believe that the power of the rock and roll revival could stop the rain, but if Dusty was looking down from the heavens that evening, he had a clear view of a memorable show!
ZZ TOP PHOTO GALLERY
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ZZ Top Setlist
Got Me Under Pressure
I Thank You
Waitin’ for the Bus
Jesus Just Left Chicago
Gimme All Your Lovin’
I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
I Gotsta Get Paid
My Head’s in Mississippi
Just Got Paid
Sharp Dressed Man
Show Date: September 22, 2021
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