As Texas’ own coolest sons ZZ Top recently celebrated their 50th anniversary as a touring band, one might think that frontman and guitarist Billy F Gibbons would begin to take it easy on the touring front. Taking the easy route has never been the ZZ Top main man’s style, and having released his third solo album, Hardware, two years ago, Billy has rarely left the road.
O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 2 July 2023
Words: Kahmel Farahani
Photography: Lawrence Potter
Tonight the head of the Texas trio brings his highly anticipated show back to London for an intimate show at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Starting the gig with ZZ Top’s Under Pressure is a good call, and it sets the pattern for the night. One Of Gibbons’s own solo songs, old school blues boogie Rolling Tumbling, is followed by a veritable ZZ Top classic in Beer Drinkers & Hellraisers.
“Can we do a little Texas shuffle?” Billy asks the crowd. The roar of approval from the fans leads into Gimme All Your Lovin’ and one of the loudest cheers of the night.
Whether it’s a boogie or a shuffle, blues, country or even a touch of samba, Billy Gibbons has every style in hand and pulls them all off with the same effortlessly cool playing.
The BFG band, a tight trio completed by Drummer John Douglas and guitarist Austin Hanks, makes short work out of any song. Dressed in matching tan boiler suits with diamond studded bands, it’s safe to say they look sharp and achingly cool.
The swirling heavy blues of Blue Jeans is a real highlight and one that lets Billy Gibbons really stretch out his soloing before bringing it back together for the tight and sweet Missing Your Kissing.
Billy Gibbons is also a rather brilliant storyteller, recounting the time a certain Jimi Hendrix was watching him: “This young guy was watching me from the side of the stage – grabbed me by the shoulders as I was walking off and said, ‘man I got to get to know you – you got a lot of nerve!'”
A bluesy cover of Hendrix’s Foxy Lady is a nice surprise.
More back-to-back ZZ Top singles in Sharp Dressed Man and Tube Snake Boogie in such an intimate venue really make the night feel special.
“I guess we have to do one more ZZ Top song, right?” Asks a smiling Billy. The gig finishes with a fantastic run-through of La Grange. At a lean 1 hour 20 mins and no encore, tonight’s gig is short and sweet, but everyone seems to leave satisfied, having watched a true master class in the blues.