bg10Written by Jim Bille

Billy Gibbons took his time on going solo from his main act ZZ Top but when he finally figured it was time to do so he gathered a great ensemble, recorded an album and is now touring the U.S.

Story is that Gibbons was invited to play the Havana Jazz Festival in Cuba and decided to spice up his act with new material flavoured with an Afro-Cuban beat that is heavy on the blues and rock and roll influence and that’s exactly what he brought home to Houston when he performed to what appeared to be a near capacity crowd at Cullen Performance Hall on the U of H campus.

Although this is a new sound for Billy Gibbons fans to get used to it’s not unfamiliar territory to Gibbons. As a youngster his father, who was friends with Latin percussion master and band leader Tito Puente, sent young Billy to New York to study Latin percussion with Puente. This tutelage was well learned and obviously not forgotten over the years as Gibbons and the BFG’s put a Mambo edge on the show that was an unexpected musical diversion to probably most fans in attendance.

The show consisted mostly of material from the new album, “Perfectemundo”, which includes original music as well as a few covers.

The performance opened up with a number called “Qvo”, a hip almost full instrumental tune that featured Austin’s Mike Flanigan on the Hammond B3 organ laying down a smoky sounding Jimmy Smith cool groove.

The next song featured, “Treat Her Right” by Houston legend Roy Head, was extra special since Head was in attendance that night.

Not one to be considered out of musical touch, Gibbon’s even threw in a smattering of hip – hop vocals from conga player Alx “Guitarzza” Garza on numbers like “You’re What’s Happening Baby” and “Quiero Mas Dinero”.

bg8Other Cuban tinged tunes from Perfectemundo featured were “Sal y Pimiento”, which gets its name from a restaurant on Houston’s west side and the rocking “Picking Up Chicks on Dowling Street”, which is a  tip of the hat to one of Houston’s more notable streets that Lightin’ Hopkins used to prowl.

Spicing up some old blues numbers Gibbons included Slim Harpo’s “Got Love if You Want It” and the Lightnin’ Hopkins standard “Baby Please Don’t Go”. Another song featured that came out of left field was “The Drifter” which was recorded on the duet album Makin Music from the 1970’s that featured Gatemouth Brown and Roy Clark.

What would the night be though without a few ZZ Top songs? Gibbons obliged the audience with three ZZ numbers that included a salsa tinged “Ten Foot Pole” from the ZZ Top’s El Loco release, “Thunderbird” which was originally recorded by The Nightcaps back in the 1950’s and was featured on ZZ Top’s album Fandango as well as the first encore number “La Grange”.

The final encore tune was a surprising version of “Whole Lotta Love” with Alx Garza on vocals. I’m not convinced that a hip-hop version of this song quite worked but it was interesting to say the least.

The BFG’s consist of Martine“G.G.”GuiGui on keyboards, Mike Flanigin on Hammond B-3 organ, Alex “Guitarzza” Garza on percussion, SoZo and Melanie DiLorenzo, on duelling and sometimes synchronized drums.

It was a rare treat to see the Reverend Billy G step out of his well rooted comfort zone and stretch his talents out. Hope to hear more from him sooner than later.