They had riffs, and as always, they knew how to use them.
The tres hombres of ZZ Top stopped Wednesday night at the Greek Theatre, not long into their shared summer tour with English guitar whiz Jeff Beck. Does that pairing feel particularly inspired? Meh. But missing the Texas boogie meisters in whatever form brings them to town rarely seems like a good idea.
Here are five thoughts on their half of the show.
1. There may be no sharper-dressed man than Billy Gibbons. On Wednesday, the singer-guitarist took the stage, as he often does, wearing more or less the same thing as bassist Dusty Hill: black pants, black jacket, dark sunglasses beneath a dark hat. As you watched the two of them, though, you couldn't deny that Gibbons was carrying off the outfit with a bit of extra style: trousers cut just so, white shirt providing some valuable contrast, a silvery necklace and black leather pouch strung around his neck as though he were planning to hike down Vermont Avenue after the gig. What a look.
2. Judging by my thoroughly unscientific sampling, Wednesday's crowd was pretty old, filled with folks who've been riding with ZZ Top since the band's beginning (or close to it). Which you'd imagine is gratifying, the result of loyalty earned through a career-spanning system of quality control. But you also wonder whether the musicians known for experimenting with synthesizers and drum machines in the early 1980s are satisfied playing strictly to the converted.
Last week, Gibbons told Billboard that he'd recently recorded songs with David Guetta, the French dance-music star; before that, ZZ Top appeared on June's CMT Music Awards to perform a totally nutty mash-up of its "La Grange" with "Talk Dirty" by R&B singer Jason Derulo. The band's latest studio album, 2012's very strong "La Futura," even opens with a crusty blues-ification of a Houston hip-hop track.
So what if instead of touring with Beck, ZZ Top hit the road with a young successor like Jack White? Or, even better, if it signed up to serve as a rapper's backing band à la the Roots with Jay Z?
3. In case you were wondering, Gibbons and Hill still have the furry guitars made famous by the music video for "Legs."
4. For that matter, they still have the music video for "Legs," which played on a giant screen behind the band as it ran through that indelible MTV-era smash. Other visual aids at Wednesday's show included an image of a flaming shot glass during "Chartreuse" and a cardboard sign taped to the back of another of Gibbons' guitars. The sign, which he flashed during "Sharp Dressed Man," read, "BEER."
5. Beck's presence on the bill may not have excited me, but Gibbons was definitely feeling it. "Can you believe this?" he asked when the guitarist joined ZZ Top for the first of two encores. "That's Jeff Beck right there!" Then they jammed together on "La Grange."
Jason Derulo, alas, was nowhere to be found.