They hail from the swampy, gritty roughneck sprawl of Houston, and he channels the thick bayou sounds of Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta. So the hot and extra-humid Minnesota weather that greeted ZZ Top and John Fogerty outside Treasure Island Casino on Friday night seemed fitting, even if it felt brutal.
The two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hitmakers hit the Red Wing casino on a joint summer tour that amounts to 30 classic-rock radio staples per night and one of the best Father’s Day gifts ever. (Tickets were a reasonable $30 to $62.)
Friday’s concert, with an attendance of 12,500, was the first at Treasure Island’s new amphitheater. There are still kinks to be worked out — especially the inexcusably long security lines — but once the show got going, the venue hit the mark with acoustics and sight-lines.
Alternating the headlining slot from night to night, the 73-year-old Fogerty went on first Friday. He literally hit the stage running and launched into two high-revving CCR classics, “Traveling Band” and “Hey Tonight.”
As oldies sets go, his packed plenty of oomph, thanks in part to his still-vibrant frog-man voice and an impressive band featuring ace drummer Kenny Aronoff, son Shane Fogerty on guitar and a hard-chooglin’ horn section.Doubling down on the nostalgia bet early in the set, Fogerty pulled out the 1968 Rickenbacker guitar he played at the original Woodstock. He also picked out an accompanying story about his wife tracked it down for him just last year after a 30-some-year separation. And with that came his bittersweet ode to the great rock ’n’ roll mud fest, “Who’ll Stop the Rain.”
Fogerty did get out of the oldies lane briefly mid-set, first to pair up with ZZ Top guru Billy Gibbons for their new collaborative single, “Holy Grail,” which was fun. Even better was the two iconic blues-rockers’ guitar duel in CCR’s “Green River.” He also dropped in a recent duet he made with Brad Paisley, “Love and War,” about mistreatment of American war vets.
“We do a lousy job taking care of our veterans in this country,” the singer bluntly declared beforehand.
Of course, that wasn’t his only timely commentary of the night. His anti-rich-boy screed, “Fortunate Son,” set the energy level to tilt before the one-two-punch encore with “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary.”
A sharp contrast to Fogerty’s go-getter set, ZZ Top’s members took the stage with a slow strut and proceeded to play as if the heat (and maybe the decades of fun) had gotten to them. Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard — the same trio as always — canceled shows last year for medical reasons and don’t seem to have gotten their groove back yet.
The show openers “Got Me Under Pressure” and “I Thank You” both plodded along flimsily. “Waiting for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago” and especially “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” were at least intentionally slow-grooving and sounded mightier, thanks in large part to Gibbons’ still-sizzling guitar licking.
The lone new song in the Top’s set list, “Sixteen Tons” — actually a 70-year-old Merle Travis country classic — provided a fun, bumpy diversion mid-set. But then the band seemed to go on autopilot through “Sharp-Dressed Man” and “Legs,” by which time a lot of the crowd had started to head for the exit to beat the casino’s notorious post-concert traffic jams.