The best way to end the summer is with a party, and you would be hard-pressed to find two bands better suited to play that party than ZZ Top and George Thorogood & The Destroyers. ZZ Top is spending most of the summer on the road with Lynyrd Skynyrd while Thorogood and the Destroyers are celebrating 50 years with their own tour, so this pairing was a special night in the middle of both of those runs.
George Thorogood & The Destroyers released their first record in 1977, but Thorogood and drummer Jeff Simon first teamed up as the Delaware Destroyers in 1973. Thorogood and Simon, along with longtime members Billy Blough (bass, 1976), Jim Suhler (guitar, 1999), and Buddy Leach (sax, 2003) are celebrating that anniversary by bringing their unique brand of blues rock around the country.
The last time I saw George Thorogood & The Destroyers was probably in the early 90s when he was still headlining arenas. At 73 years old, he still plays with the same energy, sense of humor, and love of the music that he did back then. His singing and playing are both totally on point and the Destroyers continue to live up to their name.
The band’s hour-plus setlist was a slightly pared-down version of their current headlining set. Most of the classics were there, “Who Do You Love?”, “I Drink Alone”, “House Rent Blues/One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”, and of course, “Bad To The Bone”, but the band was playing so well that you wished they stayed on a little longer.
Thorogood makes it tough to sit still during one of his shows and the capacity crowd was into it. Everyone was up, dancing in their seat, and having a great time.
After a short break, ZZ Top took the stage to 1983’s “Got Me Under Pressure”. This was my first time seeing the band since the 2021 passing of bassist Dusty Hill. Elwood Francis, Hill’s long-time guitar tech, takes his bass spot and, rather than trying to duplicate Hill, comes out with a totally unique stage presence, and a 15-string bass.
In the absence of Hill, guitarist Billy Gibbons handles all the vocals, so you won’t hear tracks like “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” or “Tush” that were traditionally sung by Hill. What you will get is a set of career-spanning classics that features everything from “Brown Sugar”, originally on ZZ Top’s First Album to “I Gotsta Get Paid” from 2012’s La Futura, their last record to date.
ZZ Top is a well-oiled live machine. Billy Gibbons shows throughout the night why he is one of the great guitar players in blues or rock. He moves effortlessly from the blues of “My Head’s in Mississippi” to a rocking cover of the Merle Travis/Tennessee Ernie Ford classic “Sixteen Tons”. Drummer Frank Beard held the beat that propelled the show all night long.
If there was a downside to the show, it was with the crowd, not the performers. The crowd that was fun and energetic during the Thorogood set, turned inebriated and belligerent during ZZ Top. In the orchestra section, security was constantly dealing with those who had a little too much and decided they should be in the front row. But, at the end of the night, even a few obnoxious concert-goers can’t take away from the fact these two veteran acts, both doing this for more than half a century, still bring their best every time they hit the stage and fill a summer night with the classic rock we all know and love.