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L.A. Beat

ZZ Top, Cheap Trick and Sue Foley serve up big slabs of Texas blues and classic rock

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Wednesday night was a great night for big slabs of deep fried Texas blues and classic rock at the Enmax Centre as ZZ Top, and Cheap Trick were finally able to make up for a show that was cancelled a couple of times because of Covid. And even better, the show featured Ottawa born, Austin based blues musician Sue Foley as a late addition.


Sue Foley opening for Cheap Trick and ZZ Top, April 27 at the Enmax Centre. Photo by Richard Amery

I’ll admit it, I have had a crush on Sue Foley since I first interviewed her at the Winnipeg Folk Festival years ago. And who wouldn’t. She’s a total badass, sexy as hell, sweet as sugar , she can play guitar so effortlessly well  enough to send most guitarists scurrying  back to the woodshed.


 So I was as stoked to see her as a late addition opener for the Lethbridge Cheap Trick and ZZ Top at the Enmax Centre, April 27.

  She strapped on her paisley pink Telecaster she dubbed “Pinky,” one of two “Pinkys” she had on board and immediately went to her happy place as she properly warmed up a shamefully small crowd for a bill like this. She won them over crooning Texas blues to them in her sultry voice and coaxing beautiful music out of Pinky with  strong, but tender fingers.


 I’m still nervous about going to big shows  like at the Enmax Centre, but figured this was worth the risk and it sure was.

 I only had permission to take photos for the first three songs, so didn’t  get to hear  the whole set as they escorted me away from the front of the stage.


 She and her hot trio (bassist Jon Penner and drummer Cory Taylor) launched into Clarence Gatemouth Brown’s classic Texas blues barnburner “Okie Dokie Stomp” and may have combined it with a jam on her “PInky’s Blues” the title of her most recent album.

 She followed it up with  “Dallas Man,” from the new album, and because she recorded it wth Billy  F Gibbons, played “Fools Gold,” from her last album “ The Ice Queen.”

 She wound up a guitar blazing, spirited set with “Hurricane Girl,” one of the highlights from “Pinky’s Blues.” But she’d be back.


 All hell broke loose on the family front during Cheap Trick’s ear-bleedingly loud set which was a combination of hits, Live at the Budokan classics and even new music, so I had to be one of those people looking at their phone during a concert. Luckily everything worked out.


I got back to the show in time to witness a 12 string bass solo. They even snuck in a new song. I didn’t get to see Rick Neilsen play his five necked behemoth, one of his many cool axes, but it was all good. They made a enough noise for three bands.

 Cheap Trick is now a family affair with guitarist Rick Neilsen’s son Daxx now playing  drums and  frontman Robin Zander’s son Robin Taylor Zander adding extra guitar and extra high vocal notes.


 I caught parts of “Dream Police,” and decided to check out the merch booth as they slowed things down for “The Flame,” my least favourite Cheap Trick hit and classic “ I Want You to Want Me. I gave up standing in the stagnating line for expensive merch as a lost cause as Zander welcomed a special guest to the stage, saying “She says she knows this song better than us.” 


Sue Foley joined them to rip through “California Man” and “my favourite “Surrender,” before making way for ZZ Top. Luckily, Cheap Trick posts each night’s set list on their facebook page, so this is what I missed “Stop This Game, Come On Come On, Lookout, On Top of the World, Dream Police, Light Up the Fire, Need Your Love, Baby Loves to Rock

Downed, I Know What I Want, The Flame, I Want You to Want Me, California Man, Surrender.”


I was wondering how ZZ Top would sound without beloved bassist/ background vocalist Dusty Hill. New bassist Elwood Francis, sporting a big white beard and spike white hair, had some huge shoes to fill, but fit right in. 

They have over 50 years of music  to choose from, but were able to cover most of the big hits, a few deeper tracks and a song from their first album.

 Billy F Gibbons played a light blue checkered custom Telecaster style guitar for most of his set, beginning with “Got Me Under Pressure” a song that really resonated with me after dealing with family drama.

 Music heals or at the very least helps you forget you troubles for a while and for that “ I Thank You, ” ZZ Top, which they played early in the set followed by “Have Mercy.”

 Gibbons let his guitar do most of the talking for most of this show with his signature beefy riffs and juicy pinch harmonics. As usual Frank Beard  pounded out that relentless Texas boogie back beat on the double kick drums embossed with graphics of beer kegs.

Sue Foley opening for Cheap Trick and ZZ Top, April 27 at the Enmax Centre. Photo by Richard Amery

 They went hard core blues with one of my favourites “ Jesus Just Left Chicago.”

And they brought back the ’80s  with “ Gimmie all Your Loving.”


 Francis sang some solid back up on “I’m Bad and I”m Nationwide” as guitarist/vocalist Billy F Gibbons introduced him by noting “That’s not a pin on beard.” 

 He got the audience to sing along on “ My Head’s in Mississippi.” and drew a chorus of cheers for “Just Got paid.”

For something different, Gibbons talked about chatting with legend Jeff Beck on the phone, noting he plays rock and roll, and so do we, which somehow lead into a segue abut country music.

 “Do you know 16 Tons,” Gibbons asked.


“ We wish we did,” he said before  crunching into an ominous, heavy version of that country classic, which sounded like Grady or Big Sugar might have covered it.

 They were called back for an encore, for which they really brought back the ’80s by strapping on the fuzzy guitars from their  famous ’80s videos, as they launched into “Legs.”

  Then they went right back  to “ZZ Top’s First Album” for  a psychedelic riff heavy version of “Brown Sugar.”

Elwood Francis switched  to a double necked bass  as Gibbons donned his Les Paul for some meaty slide guitar playing for a sing along on “Tube Snake Boogie.”

They finished their encore of  “La Grange,” which I thought might  segue into “Tush,” but it didn't.


 Gibbons kept asking the crowd “Are you having a good time yet?” throughout the show. The answer— a solid yes.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Last Updated ( Friday, 29 April 2022 08:40 )  
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