Texas rockers, ZZ Top, stormed the stage at Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Virginia, on Tuesday, May 13, 2003. With three decades of rocking international audiences behind them, guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard continue to captivate crowds in concert.

     The Kelly Bell Band, Kenny Wayne Shepherd with Double Trouble, and Ted Nugent all appeared on the bill in Bristow as opening acts for ZZ Top's Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers 2003 Tour. The lawn section was closed, which allowed those ticket holders to sit in the 300 level of the pavilion.

     ZZ Top wasted no time in firing up audience interaction by opening with "Gimme All Your Lovin'". Gibbons and Hill both appeared on stage as sharp dressed men, wearing matching cowboy hats, flowing maroon ponchos, and dark sunglasses.

     "Manic Mechanic" was a tough rocker, highlighted by Gibbon's crunching guitar lines and semi-rap vocal. The positive reaction motivated his remark, "You like that old stuff?". The trio delivered a gruffy version of "Cheap Sunglasses". Gibbons and Hill shook their guitar necks together and ricocheted their playing back and forth off the drum beat.

     "Buck Naked" premiered at Bristow, introduced as an impending track off their anticipated album Mescalero. The heavy R&B-flavored rocker featured a cool bass line by Hill. The new song received enthusiastic response, prompting Gibbons to comment, "I think somebody know what we talkin' about". Fans that recognized my ZZ Top media badge stopped to ask me when the new disc would be released.

     For their encore, ZZ Top walked through the doorway of the Texas ruins on stage. Once again, Gibbons and Hill were decked out in Rhinestone cowboy hats and jackets. The drum and guitar intro of "La Grange" was perfect. Gibbons' slashing guitar solo came to an abrupt halt as he and Hill both paused on stage to groom their distinctive beards.

     Beard took a drag off his cigarette before the band kicked back to life. During a second brief pause, Gibbons and Hill shouted, "Surf's up!", before walking back to sit on the drum riser as they jammed together on the classic rocker.

     Gibbons hollered, "Is everybody having a good time!", immediately before the band segued into "Tush", the last song of the evening. Hill belted out a strong vocal with Gibbons playing bottleneck leads. A stagehand, wearing a sombrero, strolled out to light Gibbon's cigar. Hill repeated a stanza to extend the excitement before the band jammed to a climax.

     "Rough Boy" was the only number on the circulated setlist that was dropped from their Bristow performance. However, the one song that they did not play live was their 1981 rocker "Pearl Necklace". ZZ Top fans will get their R&R jollies with the current 2003 tour.

     Baltimore's classic rock station, B-104.3 FM, conducted a ZZ Top ticket giveaway during their afternoon drive broadcast. Listeners were instructed to meet the B-104 van parked in Baltimore County and fill out an entry blank to enter to win a pair of ZZ Top tickets drawn once every five minutes.

Bristow setlist: Gimme All Your Lovin' * Pincushion * Waitin' For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago * Precious And Grace * Manic Mechanic * Cheap Sunglasses * Buck Naked * Two Trains * I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide * Piece * Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers * Just Got Paid * Tube Snake Boogie * Sharp Dressed Man * Legs * Encore: La Grange * Tush

RockonTour   Issue #20
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Texan Power Trio tops the bill
ZZ Top gets a little help from their friends

by Timothy Tilghman