With a brand new arena in the mix South Tulsa was looking for a way to make a statement in response to the new BOK Center in downtown Tulsa. The Spirit Bank Center chose a great act to open its doors and flex it’s muscle. The arena, which will play as host to the Oklahoma 66’ers NBA developmental league team, welcomed “That lil’ ole band from Texas” to the stage on Sunday night.
With openers Blackberry Smoke the night was set for a transport through time that would have made Marty McFly’s head spin. The Georgia rockers tore through 45 minutes of straight ahead Southern based rock and roll. The lead and rhythm guitarists had several guitar changes and looked as though they had stepped right out of 1973 onto the stage, but were able to capture the audience attention and fire up the crowd with catchy hooks and party style lyrics. At one point lead singer Charlie Starr stated, “We ain’t gonna talk about politics tonight, I would rather sing about a good lookin’ woman anyway!” This led into the song “Sanctified Woman” which was the stand out tune of the night for the band and got the crowd set for ZZ Top.
ZZ Top took to the stage after a 20-minute intermission and had the intimate crowd eating out of their hands with “Under Pressure”. The boys were in great form as they synchronized their way to their LED lit mic stands. Gone were the spinning guitars and dusty looking outfits of the 80’s. The band looked fresh and new in all black with white guitars. Frank Beard’s drum kit was immense and highlighted by a double base set up with silver skulls, with a gold crown shaped backdrop, which doubled as a front video screen. The stage was stripped down with a massive video screen, and white cabinets. Billy Gibbons took to the mic and quickly pointed out that “this place is brand new so, let’s go back to 1972!” Which was met with thunderous applause. Dusty Hill shared lead vocal duties on many of the bands set list of songs. Both voices were crisp with no signs of road weariness.
Gibbons and Hill reached deep into their songbook and pulled out some lesser known tunes like “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and “Been Waitin’ For a Bus”, then managed to squeeze in covers from Muddy Waters, Willie Brown, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix, the latter of which they had toured with in the early days. The scraggly looking bearded ones did a great job with “Hey Joe” and “Jailhouse Rock”.
ZZ did a great job of drawing the crowd in with movement and incredible guitar work by Gibbons, easily one of the most underrated guitarists out there today. As well as with old standbys “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide”, “Cheap Sunglasses”, and “Just Got Paid”.
Of course no ZZ Top show would be complete without the early MTV video hits of “Legs”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Gimme All Your Lovin”. These were backed up on the giant screen with original video clips from the era, in which Gibbon and Hill used their custom furry white guitars.
With over 40 years of catalog to use, the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees played through it as though they had seen the attendees ahead of time. There were all walks of life in the room from those with no facial hair at all to those who looked like stunt doubles for the band. The show ended with “LaGrange” and “Tush” as the bands encore songs. These guys show no signs of slowing as they are currently working with Rick Rubin to produce new material, “the same three guys” for all these years.
As stated earlier it was a great show to break in a new venue and ZZ didn’t disappoint the 4000 plus people in attendance. The venue did have some noticeable inconveniences, the security checkpoint may have been thought out a little better, as well as lighting on the stairways, but overall it will make for a fantastic arena and serve to draw some acts that will desire a smaller intimate audience.