One fourth of the way into the year and ZZ Top is in good health.
That wasn't the case last year when a double- whammy — surgery to remove kidney stones and a tour bus fall that resulted in a hip injury — both befell bass player Dusty Hill.
That resulted in the cancellation of several ZZ Top tour dates, including a fall concert at the Adler Theatre in Davenport. But ZZ Top — guitarist Billy Gibbons, Hill and drummer Frank Beard (ironically, the only one of the three without a long beard) — is back on the road, including a date Thursday night at the Adler.
Gibbons, like his bandmates, 65 years old, answered these questions in a recent email:
Q: You obviously know what a rarity ZZ Top is to have continued nearly 45 years with the same lineup. What’s kept you guys together when other acts seem to have a revolving door of members?
A: The secret formula is there to crack the code each and every time we play: This band enjoys having a good time getting to do what we do. We keep on keepin’ on as it’s still fine times on the deck.
Q: Is the thrill still there to get out onstage and play? What are the differences between ZZ Top now and 20-30 years ago?
A: Well, playing it long, lean and loud, along with those discerning souls who appreciate the big and bold is a big kick. The one difference now from years ago is seeing (multiple) generations in the crowds, which makes us mighty grateful to see the enjoyment factor leaping forward.
Q: Your loyal fans know you as that li'l old blues band from Texas, but a lot of the country still thinks of you from the top-40 and MTV days of the ‘80s. Looking back, would you have changed anything about the “Eliminator” and “Afterburner” days?
A: The “Eliminator” and “Afterburner” days were actually big changes in every aspect of what we were unexpectedly encountering, both onstage and in the studio. It was and is experimental "this and that's" every day. And, of course, at the same time, some things never change as well — pretty girls and hot rod cars go together as always. That part doesn't have to change much at all.
Q: You’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, all the gold and platinum records and touring around the world for decades. Is there still something the band wants to accomplish?
A: At the root of it all is still the blues. Tried and true. Just when the effect seems simple, the complexion becomes quite complex. That's the keen mystery of this purely American art form. However, our go-to motto remains, “You can't lose with the blues.”
Q: All three of you guys are the same age, and if you had any other job in the world, it becomes a time to think of retirement. Is there an “end game” strategy for ZZ Top, and will it be a fadeout or with a bang?
A: We stick to the one song that addresses that very question — “Can’t Stop Rockin’” — and the words tell all that's needed to know about the future:
“I’m never gonna stop as long as I can stay
Well, I can’t stop rockin’
Baby, till I lose my mind.”