ZZ Top star Billy F Gibbons to perform an intimate gig at a small Birmingham venue

ZZ Top founder Billy F Gibbons is coming to Birmingham for an intimate gig in the city centre - just one of three UK concerts
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He is used to fronting one of the world’s most iconic rock bands on the stages of super-sized stadia and famous festivals – but this summer Billy F Gibbons will be playing a small Birmingham club.

The 73-year-old bearded guitar hero is the founder of Texan trio ZZ Top, whose past gigs in the Midlands have included Monsters of Rock festival headliners and sell-out NEC shows. But now, he’s gearing up for a July 3 night at the 02 Institute in Digbeth, where the main hall has a humble capacity of 2,000. It will be one of his smallest shows in many years.

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With ZZ Top not set to return fully to action until later in the year after the death of bassist Dusty Hill, Gibbons has revived the spare-time band with whom he recorded his third solo album, Hardware, in 2021.

He’ll be in the good company of Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum and left-handed guitarist Austin Hanks when he takes to the Institute stage for a set of blues-fuelled power trio rock and roll.

The setlist is still being worked up but expect songs from Hardware, a selection from second solo album The Big Bad Blues, some surprise classic covers, and a smattering of ZZ Top fan favourites.

Under the banner of ‘The Big One Part 1’ it’s a tour which includes only three UK dates – the others are in London and Bournemouth – in a much larger European itinerary. Gibbons, however, is no stranger to smaller venues, having worked his way to the top by playing to modestly sized audiences, and in 2018 took ZZ Top back to the band’s roots.

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“We played little clubs, big clubs, middle-sized clubs – just about anywhere there was space to set up,” he said. “We played a show early on and when the curtain opened, just ONE paying customer stood before us.

“‘Well,’ we thought, ‘he paid to hear us so let’s give him what he paid for’. The guy was most appreciative and when we took a break, we bought him a Coke! Now that’s connecting with the audience.

ZZ Top founder Billy F GibbonsZZ Top founder Billy F Gibbons
ZZ Top founder Billy F Gibbons

“In 2018, because of a routing quirk, we accepted a ‘fill-in’ date at a little old theatre in Knoxville,” he added. “That experience reminded us of our roots, both in terms of a stripped-down, gut-bucket musical approach and the direct connection with the people who came to see us.

“So we said ‘Why not do this on a more extended basis and have some real fun, to actually be able to see the whites of the eyes of the audience again? We had a great time, although I was more nervous than I am at a stadium show.”

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Gibbons is well-known, too, for getting up onstage to jam with his peers and only last week played with Elvis Costello & The Imposters during a gig in the States.Meanwhile, ZZ Top will return for a double headliner tour of America with Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd this summer, band guitar technician Elwood Francis replacing the late Dusty Hill, who died at the age of 72 in July 2021.

The new line-up was actually Dusty’s idea. When he fell ill and realised he would be unable to hit the road with the band, he suggested that Elwood stand in. Gibbons affirmed that ZZ Top would carry on, saying that his lifelong friend and band co-founder had said “Let the show go on”.

“Dusty emphatically grabbed my arm and said ‘Give Elwood the bottom end and take it to the Top.’ He meant it, amigo. He really did.” It is hoped that there could be UK dates for ZZ Top later in the year if schedules permit, but nothing has been agreed yet, so the solo Brum show is unmissable.

Billy F Gibbons, 02 Institute, Birmingham, July 3. For more information and tickets go to: O2 Institute Birmingham

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