Last September, ZZ Top got the chance to enjoy something the group has rarely done in a career that now stretches more than 40 years – a live album.
Called “Live – Greatest Hits From Around the Globe,” the album features concert performances of 15 of the best known songs from across the career of that “Lil’ Ol’ Band From Texas.”
It’s not the band’s first live album. The catalog includes a 2008 release, “Live From Texas” (recorded in 2007), and 2001 saw the release of a show from the archives, “Live in Germany 1980.” Eagle Rock Records also has released a pair of concert DVDs, “Live at Montreaux 2013” (released in 2014) and “Double Down Live” in 2009, that combined the 1980 show from Germany and performances from 2007 and 2008.
Clearly big chunks of ZZ Top’s career have never been documented in the live setting, which has been a bit of a frustration for bassist Dusty Hill.
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“If you remember way back, there’s an album ‘Fandango!’ that’s half live and the other half is studio,” Hill said of the 1975 album in a recent phone interview. “We were going to do a live album then, but that’s the way it worked out. It’s always stuck in my craw a little bit through all these years that we never really finished a live album.”
The problem is not a lack of live recordings from across ZZ Top’s career. Hill said the band for years has recorded sound checks and concerts.
“We have an enormous amount of (live) material,” he said. “Since we had that good habit of recording things and we play so many shows, and we have for so many years, you know, yeah, you come away with a lot of material.”
“Live – Greatest Hits From Around the Globe” helps fill in some gaps in the group’s live discography by bringing together some of the best performances from the past 11 years of touring of ZZ Top’s most popular songs on one album.
The band members – Hill, singer/guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard – were involved in listening to hours of live recordings from which the performances on “Live – Greatest Hits From Around the Globe” were chosen. It was quite the undertaking, Hill said, and the 15 tracks included on the album lean toward songs from the 1970s (“La Grange,” “Tush”) as well as three hits (“Legs,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’”) from the 1980s, when ZZ Top added synthesizers and a bit poppier element to its bluesy rock sound and became MTV favorites with the sly and sexy videos of those songs.
Hill said there are certainly other concerts in the band’s vault that are of releasable quality – and putting out some archival live albums is an idea he’d like to explore.
“All this material, whatever the future holds, I don’t know, but it’s certainly something to think about,” he said.
For now, Hill is mainly concerned with playing live, as ZZ Top is in the middle of a U.S. tour that continues into June. The band then heads to Europe before returning for more shows in the States in August with the Doobie Brothers.
The extensive schedule of shows is good news for fans of ZZ Top.
In 2014, the group had to cancel shows when Hill first dealt with illness, and then later that year when he fell on the band’s tour bus and injured his hip. Then this past April, Hill suffered a fractured shoulder when he tripped on steps at a venue in Lubbock, Texas, forcing the group to nix a run of spring concerts.
The latter injury was especially concerning because it affected Hill’s ability to play bass.
“When I had the accident, the first thing I did was wiggle my fingers,” Hill said. “I got so freaked out that I hurt my hands. I didn’t think about my shoulder until I started to get up. ‘Oh-oh, it doesn’t work.’ At the time I was thinking it was dislocated, that’s what I was hoping. And I was trying to get somebody to pop it back so I could play. And I’m glad they didn’t do it because I had an X-ray done and it was broken. Had they pulled on it, it would have been a lot worse.”
Hill had to rehab the shoulder at home and was well enough to do a European tour that preceded the current U.S. tour.
“I rehabbed up to the point to where we hopped over and did a month in Europe,” Hill said. “I kind of finished rehabbing my shoulder on stage over there. So it’s back and I’m doing well.”
ZZ Top - The Tonnage Tour
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 27
Where: Hartman Arena, 8151 N. Hartman Arena Drive, Park City
Tickets: $47-$122.50, available at ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000 and the arena’s box office