Multi-instrumentalist ZZ Ward, born Zsuzsanna Eva Ward, is celebrating a whirlwind year of accomplishments, which includes releasing her new album Til The Casket Drops and headlining a national tour. ZZ brought her Down and Dirty Shine Tour to the intimate Paradise Rock Club in Boston. With a minimalist stage production, outside of her black and white backdrop which features a wolf slyly superimposed and silhouetted amongst her stage name – ZZ and her band performed most of the tracks off of her 2012 release and a couple of unexpected covers that may demonstrate just how diverse this young woman is with her influences and her music.
ZZ’s band came through the stage door and hit the stage just a few steps ahead of her. The entire band was uniform in their mixed ensemble of black and white. The only color that stood out was ZZ’s golden locks that were sprawling out from underneath a black bowler hat. She greeted the crowd quickly with a wave and a smile just as the band kicked into a seemingly impromptu jam to get the show started.
Immediately following the jam, ZZ strapped on a shiny acoustic guitar for “Put The Gun Down”. “Gun” featured some fancy keyboard fills that accented the song nicely. ZZ’s vocals were strong and soulful from the get-go. She took a few seconds to catch her breath and set her guitar down before delivering the title track,“Til The Casket Drops.”
ZZ snagged her acoustic once again for “Got It Bad” and Missy Elliot’s “I Can’t Stand The Rain” – which she made her own by changing the tempo and arrangement from the original. Next up was “365 Days”, which shined with its sultry vocals and tasty guitar solo. The heartfelt “Last Love Song” followed. ZZ was accompanied by second acoustic guitar. Its simple arrangement, less the album’s orchestration, was moving and effectively change the momentum of the set.
ZZ introduced the next song, not by name – but by asking the audience to let her tell them about a guy named Charlie. She then continued by sarcastically joking, “Let’s keep it stupid. With that stupid look on your face.” One had to have guessed that this was some kind of private joke. ZZ held on to her trusty acoustic. She was accompanied only by a soft electric bass and a second acoustic guitar, which in turn added texture and a melodic solo during the spiteful “Charlie Ain’t Home”. Judging by the volume of the audience’s cumulative voice during the chorus, this song went over well them.
The drummer returned to the stage and ZZ asked the crowd, “How do you feel about the Blues?” before announcing that they were going to play a song by Blues legend, Son House. ZZ and her band played an interesting take on House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face”. With a shiny black Paul Reed Smith and a capo on its second fret, ZZ’s guitarist added some simple but effective slide action to this nasty number. ZZ took the song to a different level by standing up blowing feverishly into a harmonica.
With a sly smile, ZZ exclaimed, “This place is great! Let’s go to a shitty Blues club.” before diving into the steamy and sinful “Lil’ Darlin’”. After the song, ZZ praised her exuberant fans by telling them, “It’s easy to bring it, when you bring it. Thank you.”
ZZ and her band followed up with, “If I Could Be Her” and “Cryin’ Wolf “ in which ZZ showed her understanding of how connecting with her audience can make a difference by harking, “Help me out!”. The lead-bass lines and the raw guitar solo added additional spice to an already hot number. A solid, funky drum intro set the tone for “Criminal. They then broke into a seemingly impromptu jam before breaking into “Move It Like You Stole It”. The keyboardist went back to his sunburst Strat to rock this in-your-face jam before the whole band left the stage.
After a whole 30 second break, the band returned one last time. The band ended their set with a hot, foot-stompin’ “Blue Eyes Blind”. ZZ played a shiny black tom and used her drumsticks like a tomahawk against its skin. ZZ and Co. ended their set with the same vigor that they started with. Their performance was intense and memorable throughout.
Put The Gun Down
Got It Bad
I Can’t Stand The Rain (Missy Elliot)
Last Love Song
Charlie Ain’t Home
Grinnin’ In Your Face (Son House)
If I Could Be Her
Move It Like You Stole It
Blue Eyes Blind