Shippensburg University warmly welcomed “That Lil’ Ol’ band from Texas,” ZZ Top to the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center for a sold-out performance on Saturday.
The band has kept its original three members—Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard—for four decades. ZZ Top is currently in the midst of “The Tonnage Tour” with Outlaw Country newcomer, Austin Hanks.
Austin opened the show with his song “This Ain’t No Jukebox,” making sure the crowd knew they were in for some live music. Hanks was a pleasant surprise to all the ZZ Top fans. The young man from Alabama impressed the audience with his bluesy guitar solos, incredible vocal range and catchy choruses. His band mates were technically impressive, but were not as fun to watch. While Austin was jumping around the stage hyping up the crowd and making the most impressive “blues guitar face” I’ve ever seen, his guitar and bass players seemed to be cemented to the same spot showing no emotion.
I was able to speak with Hanks after his performance and he told me he and Gibbons from ZZ Top “go way back.” Gibbons approached him one day and told him “we need to get you a record” and days later he was in the studio recording “Alabastard” with Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimmy Hall of Jeff Beck, and Gibbons himself. The album is a great country-rock record with everything from songs to party to, cry and sing along to.
ZZ Top took the stage shortly after Austin Hanks finished and the crowd was immediately on their feet. They asked the crowd what they wanted to hear, to which the audience responded with songs like “Legs,” “Tush,” “La Grange” and even one brave soul shouting “Play some Skynyrd!” Billy Gibbons settled them down by telling them they would play “Something old, something new, and everything in between.”
The “Tres Hombres” may be in their 60’s but they still have the energy of a 21-year-old student at a frat party on a Saturday night. They were jumping around the stage, dancing in unison and “giving each other some skin” after every blazing guitar solo, bluesy bass break and impressive high note hit. The drummer, Frank Beard—ironically the only member without a beard—was getting the audience to laugh by lighting a cigarette before starting each song. The band kept true to their word by playing hit songs from all of their albums and even doing a bluesy cover of “Foxey Lady” by Jimi Hendrix and “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley.
ZZ Top and Austin Hanks put on an incredible show for the packed Luhrs auditorium. The musicians did not disappoint and everyone in attendance got their money’s worth for one of the Luhrs Centers most expensive shows this season.