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ZZ Top and Jeff Beck storm into Tucson

ZZ Top
ZZ Top
© Mary F. Andrews

Jeff Beck and ZZ Top live


Neither Jeff Beck nor ZZ Top is ready to retire any time soon. Both acts proved that royally, Sunday, August 17, 2014 at AVA Amphitheatre. Bad weather could not keep the crowds from coming to see their heroes. The sold out crowd was treated to two concerts for the price of one and the bands totally rocked out.

Jeff Beck join ZZ Top for the encore
© M F Andrews

The show started with newbie Tyler Bryant performing a 20-minute acoustic set. Bryant is young, but not exactly a newbie. Tyler is a guitar prodigy who has shared the stage with Aerosmith, Heart, REO Speedwagon, Paul Simon, Jeff Beck, BB King, Pat Benetar and more. At the age of 15, Tyler won the Robert Johnson Foundation’s New Generation Award, which recognized him as one of the most promising new artist on the music scene. His energetic 20-minute set proved how founded the award truly was.

This summer has provided some of the most revered guitarists live on various stages in Tucson. Tonight continues to present that plethora of talent. Jeff Beck, at age 70, has been ranked number five in Rolling Stone’s list of “100 greatest guitarists.” Mr. Beck has been playing guitar since 1966 when the Yardbirds recruited him. He can play all genre of music, but is most noted for his blues-rock, hard rock, jazz-fusion, and electronica.

Tonight, guitarist Nicolas Meier, bassist Rhonda Smith, drummer Jonathan Joseph and singer Jimmy Hall accompanied Beck. Jimmy Hall is the longtime member/vocalist of the Wet Willie band. He provided some righteous harmonica chops along with his outstanding vocals. All members of the band brought their A-game to say the least and each had a chance to show off their talent.

Jeff Beck was very modest in his delivery of music. He is not a “showy” performer. During the encore with ZZ Top, he preferred to be in the background. It was obvious that Jeff was having a good time during the 70-minute set. His guitar playing appeared to be effortless and yet, perfect. He played a lot of blues but his solo of “Danny Boy” was most stirring. Beck did a show of “hands.” He did not use a guitar pick, but he produced a wide variety of sound using his fingers and the vibrato bar on his guitar. He also used the wah-wah pedal occasionally. Jimmy Hall gave sterling vocals on Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Going To Come” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Overall the set seemed too short for this guitar legend! For a complete set list, click here.

The final set was “that little ol’ band from Texas,” ZZ Top. The crowd was up and screaming for their blend of blues-rooted rock and ZZ Top delivered. The three-piece band has had the same lineup for over 40 years. They are Billy Gibbons, guitar, bassist Dusty Hill and Drummer Frank Beard. Gibbons takes the job as front man for the group very seriously by providing his characteristic guitar and his sense of humor. He hollered out, “Hey Tucson, we’ve been in and out of Tucson for over 40 years. We are the same guys.” “There is always plenty of one thing here. Mexican food! There’s El Menudo and La Indio . . . I had to go check out a house where I used to live earlier today.” The party was on. The set included enough old classics to please any crowd. Click here for a complete set list.

The best part of the show was the four-song encore with Jeff Beck. That included “La Grange,” “Tush,” “Rough Boy,” and “Sixteen Tons.” Again, Jeff Beck was happy to support the group with his trademark expert guitar licks. It was a very satisfying show and as Billy Gibbons said, “Not bad for only three guitar chords!”