MOTOR CITY CASINO Detroit, MI June 17, 2009 Okay admit it. You live within driving distance of Detroit but skipped The Boz Scaggs show at Motor City Casino's Soundboard because you couldn't be bothered driving into Detroit, and deep down, you worried the whole place would look like something out of Road Warrior with all the bad news lately from the auto sector. Before we go on, can I just say this?
The place is picking up. It had been twenty years since I had been there..and we had to get passports to get across the border..but the show Boz put on was worth the passport hassle, and the drive in and out was as smooth as silk.
The restaurants and hotels in the down town will knock your socks off. Yes, there are still boarded up buildings, but they are keeping things clean, and maintained. I saw folks jogging while I ate supper. People walking home. Driving bikes. Folks LIVE there..
Did you know they have an MGM-Grand Hotel there? If I did, I had forgotten it.
I mention this, because it would not surprise me in the least that Boz comes back to Motor City Casino after his performance the other night, and if he does, I want you to know it's a hassle free trip to take him in..and take him in you should.
But you DID miss a wonderful, personal performance on the 17th. Boz Scaggs took the stage a bit past eight, with his band of six.. No announcer, opening act, or needless bravado. He strolled on in black pants and dark grey vest, white shirt and hair brushed back, nodded slightly...and went to work.
Laughing slightly over something with his first guitar, he started with Jo Jo, using it as a canvas to start. The sound of the single was close enough to what his band was doing that night to slide over to where he wanted to take you.
And on that Wednesday night, it was all about time.
Mr. Scaggs has, as you know, just turned 65, and in the intervening time, Berry Beckett, from Muscle Shouls had also died. Scaggs recalled Beckett and some of his accomplishments on stage, and nodded with a sense of satisfaction, and thanked those of us who applauded his mention.
Harbor Lights started with a slightly faster tempo then you would hear on the Virgin disc arrangement, but this lead to an image of windswept streets in the night with newspapers blowing down them...the relentless passage of time despite the memories. Still delicate, but you are more aware of the speed of things.
And son of a New York gun if it didn't close with an arrangement a lot closer to the original disco mix...heavy on the bass and drums..our memories DO get altered over time, and it was almost jarring to go back to the way the song originally sounded.
A lot of covers too, with, of course, the current concert staple of "Til You Come Back to Me" performed by Miss Monet (Monet Owens) whose performance has been described better then I could elsewhere on this thread. Needless to say, you can take this in and know what Stevie Wonders' song would sound like if someone had farmed it out to Muscle Shoals first.
The first encore was "It All Went Down the Drain" from the COME ON HOME album, written by Earl King..you also heard "Watcha Gonna Do"; the property of Professor Longhair, and "Hercules" which Boz used as an intro for the audience to Allan Toussaint (it's writer). Boz remarked how the song could have been written yesterday.
We are traditionally scared of the passage time in our society, but I think Boz has come to terms with it..seeing it as a benefit. He knows his blues and realizes, I think, that Muddy Waters had just about the best album of his life when he was roughly 65, and B.B. King put out a smoken set when he was 65.
The experience and the age help make what is necessary stay there, and helps you ditch the excess. Gives one a sense of what is, and is not important.
Miss Sun and Til You Come Back to me were played to illustrrate just this. With Miss Monet on vocal, Boz was able to be at ground zero, the lead blues guitarist in an R&B band, guitar at a 45 degree angle, standing with heels raised, playing up the neck.
If, as they say on this site, 'it all comes down to the singer and the song,' you also have to factor in that it also works out to how good your band is, and how well you work together...and the night was an inspiration.
Scaggs knew how to stretch the melodies, how to use one note instead of three, when to tease it like a cat playing with string, when to cut it short. Tasty solos all night long, and that shy smile when he got it right. I was close enough to marvel at the precision finger work, and expert touch.
He was not a millionaire restaurant owner or an oldies act, or someone playing a fortified version of his greatest hits album. He was burning out the blues because he could and because he wanted to. He was a blues man.
The second encore, was, of course, Loan Me a Dime..Scaggs and Zingg not so much dueling as conversing over guitars...one saying back to the other "I have an idea...go with this' again and again.
All told, his current tour might be the best kept secret and biggest bargain on the summer concert circuit. Do not miss the chance to take it in, and if he returns to the Motor City Casino, do not hesitate to fill the room this time. This show was maybe 2/3 filled...don't be left out next time when the word gets out and the room sells out.