ZZ Top transformed the blues into show business and rode it to MTV stardom and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The hallmarks of the 47-year-old trio were on display Saturday night at sold-out Mystic Lake Casino: hot blues guitar licks, irresistible humor and a distinctive image that’s both corny and cool.
The blueprint has been pretty much the same since the Mr. Natural beards and sexy videos elevated the little ole blues band from Texas to MTV fame with such synthesizer-drenched hits as “Gimme All Your Lovin.’” and "Legs."
The synths were kept to a minimum on Saturday but the humor and Billy Gibbons were in abundance. With studied nonchalance, he effortlessly peeled off economical but emotional guitar licks and sang with a gruff voice that was as faceless as his beardless face would be.
But fans appreciated the efficiency of the band, the precision of the keep-it-simple rhythm section (of drummer Frank Beard and bassist Dusty Hill) and the cute, subtle unison choreography of Hill and Gibbons.
The 90-minute set featured ZZ Top staples ("I'm Bad I'm Nationwide," "Sharp Dressed Man"), covers (“Foxy Lady,” “16 Tons,” “Act Naturally”) and blues chestnuts (“Catfish Blues,” “Sloppy Drunk”).
The fans seemed especially low-key for a Saturday night; they failed to rise to their feet until the encore of “La Grange” and “Tush.” Maybe it’s because they were waiting for ZZ Top's guitar and bass covered with the white faux fur.
Overall, there were no surprises, unless you consider the omission of “Cheap Sunglasses,” Hill goofing with the sign-language interpreter (she was awesome on the instrumental solos) or Gibbons playing a Chuck Berry-inspired solo during the final encore of Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock.” But with ZZ Top, it’s all about keeping it efficient, light-hearted and bluesy.