With new bassist, ZZ Top delivers its bearded boogie in Wayzata

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Bass man Dusty Hill had the beard, shades and hat that visually defined ZZ Top.

After he died on July 28, there was no question that the little ol' blues band from Texas — which had never had a personnel change in 52 years — would continue. That's what Hill wanted. And that's what the trio has done.

With longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis stepping out on bass, ZZ Top still has three distinctive beards with frontman Billy Gibbons and Francis, as well as clean-shaven drummer Frank Beard.

There was nothing sad about the Rock Hall of Famers' appearance Friday night at the Wayzata Beach Bash less than two months after Hill's passing. In fact, the band seemed refreshed, which was noticeable on the opening "Got Me Under Pressure," a 1983 MTV hit, when Gibbons and Francis grooved together.

From the jump, this was a winning night. Overall, this concert was 100 % more satisfying than ZZ Top's last Twin Cities gig, in 2019 at the State Fair, when the trio seemed rushed because of an impending rainstorm.

As always, Gibbons was in command on guitar, delivering licks in various mutated styles of the blues — Delta, Texas, Chicago, heavy, fast, slow, boogie, shuffle, gritty — and even punkish Chuck Berryesque riffs on "Pearl Necklace."

Gibbons' raspy voice was often coarse but still effective enough. It sounded suitably macabre on a bluesy reading of the country classic "16 Tons."

Beard was once again solid on his big kit with its two bass drums.

Francis, whom Hill tapped as his successor, is a 30-year member of the ZZ Top family. Like Gibbons, he's toothpick thin, with the requisite cheap sunglasses and beard — silver compared with Gibbons' strawberry blond. In Wayzata, he went hatless, showing off his freewheeling cloud of Brillo-y curls, pushed backed by a red headband that matched Gibbons' kerchief. Both were dressed in black jackets and slacks, although the star's outfit was all sparkly.

Francis has a bass, and he knows how to use it. He helped Beard provide the perfect rhythmic rumble. He was a good foil for Gibbons, as well, manifesting obvious camaraderie and a willingness to jam.

For "Legs," ZZ Top continued the tradition of playing guitars covered in fake fur but didn't spin them like Hill and Gibbons used to do in unison.

On Friday, there was less winking and leering humor in Gibbons' manner and patter. He did get off a good line when his guitar tech — Francis' replacement — brought a new instrument but failed the final step.

"It's an electric guitar," Gibbons announced. "It might help if you turn it on." He then mockingly ordered: "I told you to stay in the car."

The 4,000 fans loved the MTV favorites (especially the boogieing "Sharp Dressed Man" and the hard-charging "Legs") and even earlier hits, including 1973's snaking "La Grange," which, with lit-up carnival rides spinning behind the stage, created the kind of rush that some men might have experienced at the brothel for which the song is named.

To follow "La Grange," ZZ Top let Hill do the singing via recording as Francis, Beard and Gibbons played "Tush," and the fans got exactly what they were looking for, which wasn't much more than a boogieing good time.

Opening the concert was Samantha Fish, a bluesy guitarist of considerable skills.

Twitter: @Jon Bream • 612-673-1719

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