Houston Rodeo 2012 - Review
Seeing ZZ Top playing an inspired set at the Houston rodeo in front of a hometown crowd of almost sixty-thousand fans (actually 55,642) at the massive Reliant Center was a truly incredible experience. The night was kicked off by a rousing and very patriotic, unforgettable rendition of The Star Spangled Banner that was sung by a boys choir. A girl circled and crisscrossed the field on a majestic horse waving a large American flag as fireworks exploded throughout the song (it's on YouTube). Then there was rodeo competition including calf wrestling, bronco busting, bull riding and chuck wagon racing. Although the rodeo events proved to be lots of fun, the concert was the real highlight.
The band arrived at the large revolving stage in the center of the dirt field in a Cadillac convertible. The crowd was off the field in the stands, with the exception of a small group of about 200 fans that were allowed on the field and sat about 50 feet away from the stage. The crowd was fully into Top as concert started with the usuals; Pressure, Bus/Jesus, Pincushion, Nationwide. The band was real tight from the beginning and Billy took off at the end of Pincushion with a nice guitar solo. The first surprise was following Nationwide with the Eliminator trio (Gimme, Sharp, Legs). The Eliminator trio whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and we were just hoping that wasn’t the end of the set! The boys continued on the surprises with a very well received version of Dusty singing “Viva Las Vegas”. After “Viva” Billy said they were happy to be playing the Rodeo for the fourth time, although it was really their fifth time. Billy then told the audience that “the night wouldn’t be complete if they didn’t throw a little Country & Western something” at them. The next surprise was Billy’s introductions of country star Jamey Johnson (acoustic guitar and vocals) and guitar tech Elwood Francis (steel guitar) turning the band into a five-piece ensemble for their version of Johnny Paycheck’s “11 Months and 39 Days” (sung by Johnson). Next was the standard “In the Jailhouse Now” (originally played by Blind Blake, but redone by many) with lead vocals by Dusty and Jamey. The covers were done exceptionally well and were a treat to witness. ZZ finished with LaGrange and Tush as Jamey stuck around for the final two numbers. There was no break for encores because it was not really possible for the band to leave the stage and return later. The band left in the Cadillac, escorted by two ATVs and slowly circled the field to bask in the roaring applause of the huge crowd, before finally driving off into the tunnel to the explosions of more fireworks.
ZZ was relaxed and totally in control as they had the crowd with them from the moment they first poked out of the tunnel that night. They surged with life on the usual numbers, surprised me with “Viva”, and excelled on the cover tunes. The whole event is done very well - make sure you see the rodeo as well at the band. We hoped for some material from new album, but I was neither surprised nor disappointed that it did not happen. The one-off cover tunes provided enough magic for the night. Besides, the new music will come - right??
I would like to pass along a very special thanks to the friends I met up with at the show. We converged in Houston from different parts of the country to share an unforgettable night at the Rodeo. And I got to check out some very cool, top-notch guitar stores. Final words - I would highly recommend seeing Top at the Rodeo if they decide to do it again in the future.