The warm sticky air hanging in the night sky found its way into the Arlington Theatre on a recent Tuesday, and by the time ZZ Top started their set, the 2,000-plus seat venue was as sweltering as a Louisiana swamp. The sultry temperature didn’t seem to dampen the crowd’s excitement, however, which roared as the iconic rock band sauntered onto the stage.
The Texas-bred trio — Billy Gibbons (guitar/vocals), Dusty Hill (bass/vocals), and Frank Beard (drums) — opened with “Got Me Under Pressure” from 1983’ Eliminator, the band’s most successful commercial release that spawned a series of hit singles including “Gimmie All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” and “Legs.” Next up were “I Thank You,” “Waitin’ for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago,” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’” in rapid succession.
Although Hill and Gibbons — both clad in sunglasses, black jackets, and brimmed hats — looked the part, their onstage energy was lackluster and they didn’t engage much with the audience. Maybe the uncomfortable heat had sapped them of steam. Whatever the reason, the band’s subdued presence and poor sound mixing, which made it nearly impossible to hear Gibson’s vocals, combined for an underwhelming show.
I can only speak to the first three quarters of the performance, however; the oppressive heat forced me out of the Arlington before the concert’s end. And despite my grievances one thing was clear — the bulk of those in attendance (it was a sold-out show) were thrilled to see ZZ Top live and one could argue that their collective experience is the only one that really matters.