You know you’re going to enjoy a great show when Billy Gibbons invites his friends to his birthday party. Backed by Late Show with David Letterman and Fab Faux Bassist Will Lee, Late Show drummer Anton Fig, film director and Gibbons stalwart Martin Guigui on keyboards and composer Mike Flannigan on the Hammond B3, a few guest appearances provided icing on the cake.
The band showed its mettle with an instrumental before Gibbons hit the stage with ZZ Top tunes, including “Thunderbird,” to rock a packed house. Gibbons, a showman at heart, began introducing the songs in his particularly interesting set list with references to his heroes: “I was 17 and this man took me all around the planet,” Gibbons began, and talked about Hendrix and Jeff Beck before launching into an extended version of “Foxey Lady” that certainly did Jimi proud. Gibbons and Lee reunited on “Get Out Of My Life Woman,” which appears on Lees’s own outstanding album Love, Gratitude and Other Distractions. (On the album, Gibbons and Lee were joined by the song’s composer Allen Toussaint.) Nancy Sinatra should have been taking notes for the band’s take on “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” Gibbons joked about being known for ZZ Top’s 24 albums and his recurring role on TV’s Bones, but that Duck Dynasty had a special place in his heart; he then proceeded to rip into ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man,” the show’s theme song. Rounding out the night with “Jailhouse Rock,” Gibbons gave us all a birthday present to remember.
It bears noting that Gibbons & Co. is among the nicest group in show biz. Calm, professional and unfailingly charming, the band and roadies are heavy-hitters without being heavy-handed, and that’s probably a result of top-down management. Happy Birthday, Billy!
– Suzanne Cadgene