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Concert Reviews:
Small crowd doesn't keep Billy Gibbons from playing big show at Masonic
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- What's the difference between being ZZ Top and being the guy from ZZ Top?

Thousands of fans, that's what.

By dint of nearly 45 years of recording ZZ Top is still popular enough to fill larger theaters, amphitheaters and even arenas. But on Sunday, Jan. 31, guitarist Billy F. Gibbons and his BFGs band, promoting his fiery solo album "Perfectamundo," played to a club-sized crowd of less than 300 at the Jack White Theater in the Masonic Temple complex -- the victim of a rainy Sunday night in late January, a changed date and only modest promotion.

And, of course, the underwhelming commercial impact of "Perfectamundo."

To his credit, Gibbons didn't let the turnout get him down; at the start of the show he even asked the lighting tech to illuminate the stage and the house so he could see everybody.

And then he and the five BFGs delivered a show that will rank as one that got away.

Sporting a glittery Nudie jacket, red slacks, shiny black loafers and his trademark shades, Gibbons was clearly energized and refreshed to be playing with a larger ensemble and free, however briefly, from the click-track mechanics of ZZ Top. Following a spirited solo set by Vintage Trouble guitarist Ty Taylor, Gibbons and company powered through a tight 'n' tidy 12-song, 65-minute set that allowed him to display some new sonic clothing, mashing up rock and blues with Afro-Cuban textures and even some raps, courtesy of Alx "Guitarazza" Garza, on "Quiero mad dinero" and during a lusty romp through ZZ Top's "La Grange."

Gibbons was also happy to share the solo space with keyboardists Martine "G.G." GuiGui and Mike Flanigin, turing Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's "The Drifter" -- from Flanigin's latest solo album -- into a lengthy jam and also stretching out on the Latin funk of "You're What's Happenin' Baby" and the salty "Sal y pimiento." Gibbons and company not surprisingly focused on "Perfectamundo" throughout the night, but he certainly pleased ZZ Top partisans by digging deep into that band's catalog for fleshed out renditions of the slinky "Ten Foot Pole" and the gritty shuffle of "Thunderbird."

The BFGs encored with Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," giving the BFGs two female percussionists a chance to pound and Garza another opportunity to rap, before calling it a night. The next time we see Gibbons in these parts it's most likely to be with ZZ Top again, but a return of the BFGs is needed, simply because it's another musical side of Gibbons that deserves to be seen by more people.

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