At just 23 years old Tyler Bryant is starting to make a name for himself but he’s in no hurry. Tyler is as talented as anyone else his age but he knows that in the blues-rock genre dues sometimes must be paid. Opening for ZZ Top and Jeff Beck is part of paying them dues and this kid from Honey Grove, Texas did not disappoint. With hot-air balloons floating overhead and Bryant’s long brown hair spilling out from the sides of his gray derby, he warmed up the Washington crowd with a handful of acoustic numbers and busted out the slide to show off a little more of his guitar mastery. The kid can play and sing. Although most in the crowd had never heard of him before this night , they no doubt left as fans. Pro Tip: Check him out in the documentary Rock Prophecies, in which he appears with the man he is opening for this night, Jeff Beck.
After Tyler, the legendary British axe-slinger Jeff Beck strolled onto the warm, sun drenched stage on an absolutely perfect Pacific Northwest evening ready to do some business. I’m not sure what the crowd was expecting but they probably thought he’d be a little quieter and mellower, I mean he is 70 after all. Well he brought his “A” game and was on fire through the entire performance, if anything he has gotten better(if that’s even possible). No matter what they were expecting he delivered jam after jam throwing in plenty of his experimental guitar wizardry. Rhonda Smith who took over the bass duties from Tal Wilkenfeld a few years ago brought the thunder. She took center stage for a display of her own superior skills and the left a few jaws on the turf of the Chateau St. Michelle Amphitheater.
After Beck got warmed up with several instrumentals he brought out Wet Willie singer Jimmy Hall for a serious dose of blue-eyed soul. They blasted through the rest of the set with Hall energizing the crowd, belting out some great vocals and jumping on the harmonica at times, while other times just standing by watching Jeff shred. They delighted the crowd with a solid version of “Little Wing” made famous by both Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. By now the winery crowd had been worked into a grape-induced frenzy and when Jeff Beck played the first few notes of “Going Down” the place went crazy. There would be no more sitting down for most of the attendees until Beck left the stage. His entire band was incredibly tight and allowed his guitar plenty of room to breathe.
Going to a ZZ Top show these days is like walking into a Texas Roadhouse in the 1980′s with a roll of quarters to spend and finding a dusty old jukebox in the corner. They powered through all of the major hits including, well all of them. Legs, Sharp Dressed Man, Waitin’ For The Bus/Jesus Done Left Chicago, Tush, all of them. Dusty Hill was pounding on the bass just as he’s done for the Little Ole Band From Texas for the last 4 plus decades. This trio of Texas badasses had the crowd juking and jiving throughout their whole set. Of course, the only one in the band with out a beard, Frank Beard, held down his spot behind the drum kit as he always does. Billy Gibbons, even though he’s coming off a brief health issue that delayed the start of the tour, hasn’t seemed to have lost a step. His guitar playing was just as filthy as ever and he moved around easily on stage, so it appears that the health issue is behind him now. They brought out a killer rendition of “Foxy Lady” with some Texas sludge on top that really made the fans shake their back sides. After the song ended Gibbons yelled up into the clear evening sky and shouted Jimi’s name and told us, “Jimi taught everyone on this stage at least half of what we know”.
When the main set ended the crowded yelled Z..Z..TOP – Z..Z..TOP – Z..Z..TOP until the band came back out to give them more. And more they got. Billy joked they ain’t going anywhere. Oh yeah, did we mention that they decided to bring Jeff Beck out with them? The crowd was treated to a handful of songs with Beck whammy-diving and displaying his fretboard wizardry on “Tush” and a ripping version of “Jailhouse Rock”.
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