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Boz Scaggs Concert Review * Clearwater, FL 2009

Boz Scaggs @ Ruth Eckerd Hall, Thurs., July 2

July 3rd, 2009 by Eric Snider in Reviews

Most pop singers from the ’60s and ’70s who are fortunate enough to still be touring resort to what I call vocal cheats. That’s when they get to a point in an old hit that has a particularly high note they can’t hit — a note that especially resonates with the baby-boomer audience — so they either drop it an octave or turn it over to the background singers.

There’s nothing really shameful about these vocal cheats — it would be worse, for instance, if Daryl Hall tried to hit that big release note in “She’s Gone” and failed miserably. Or if Roger Daltrey attempted to render the big scream in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and sounded like a frog.

I tell you all this because I saw Boz Scaggs last night at Ruth Eckerd Hall and he didn’t resort to any vocal cheats. He’s 65 years old. Very impressive. When, on “Lido Shuffle,” it came time for the “Lido, whoa, whoa” part, he was right on it — with the backup singers helping, yes, but not drowning him out and thus protecting him. Scaggs came up a little short or a little thin on some of the high notes, but he went for them all.

It wasn’t just the lack of vocal cheats that made Scaggs’ 75-minute set in front of a near-sold-out crowd a success. His voice still has that full, creamy texture of the old days, and his delivery and phrasing brimmed with nuance. (more photos below; all are by Tracy May)

Scaggs’ most recent albums have been made up of standards from the Great American Songbook. He set that material aside at REH, opting instead for a compendium of hits from the latter half of the 1970s and early ’80s (”Jojo,” “Lowdown,” “Georgia,” “Look What You’ve Done to Me” and others) as well as blues and R&B tunes from his early, early career. His encore was an extended version of the slow blues “Loan me a Dime” from his 1969 self-titled album.

Scaggs, who played guitar as well, was backed by five instrumentalists and a dynamic background singer who, I think, went by Miss Monet. She was as torrid as Scaggs was ultra-cool, and provided the ideal vocal foil. Miss Monet took center stage for a roof-raising version of the Aretha Franklin vehicle “Until You Come Back To Me.” Her performance drew a big smile from the perpetually laid-back Scaggs.

The band’s dynamics were impeccable, dialed back at times in order to make room for Scaggs’ supple pipes to take the spotlight, allowing him to contour the lyrics in fresh ways.

Besides the fact that he omitted “Breakdown Dead Ahead” and declined to sing any standards, I was thoroughly pleased with Scaggs’ set. A longtime fan, it was my first occasion to see him in concert.

Just for the record, Michael McDonald played the second set of the double bill. I’m not a fan, so only caught a few tunes and left. As a result, I’ll pass on offering commentary here — except to say that he sat facing the crowd behind an electronic keyboard as his feet pumped on pedals … and he was wearing flip-flops. Yeesh.

Here’s a photo, however.

Special thanks to Eric Snider and Tracy May.

Boz Scaggs at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL

Ruth Eckerd Hall
Clearwater, FL

Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs
Article published on Monday, June 29, 2009   
CLEARWATER – Grammy-Award winners, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs perform on the Ruth Eckerd Hall stage Thursday, July 2, at 7:30 p.m.

Michael McDonald is known for his work with Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers and his solo career with hits songs such as Takin' It to the Streets, Little Darling, It Keeps You Runnin,' Minute by Minute, What a Fool Believes and On My Own (a duet with Patti LaBelle).

Boz Scaggs first gained fame in the 1970s with several Top 20 hits, including Lowdown, Lido Shuffle, What Can I Say and We're All Alone from the album Silk Degrees, which reached No. 2 on the U.S. album charts. Other hit singles include Look What You’ve Done To Me (from the Urban Cowboy soundtrack track) and Heart of Mine.

Reserved tickets priced at 62.50, $72.50 and $103 are available at the Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office located at 1111 McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater; by calling 727-791-7400 or online at The Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and one hour prior to show time.

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