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Boz Scaggs Concert Review - State Theatre, NJ 2009

Ex-Doobie, Boz Scaggs show is pleasant if predictable

By RANDY CORDOVA - GANNET - September 14, 2009


During one of his recent concerts on a tour that takes him and Boz Scaggs to the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ next week, Michael McDonald joked about being a "card-carrying member of the AARP.''

The ex-Doobie Brother turned 57 on his last birthday, and co-headliner Scaggs is a weathered 65, so seasoned maturity is definitely on display during this tour. But that seniority often works in their favor. A mellow, low-key affair, it's the kind of show you may not remember in a year, but it's pleasant while it lasts.

Scaggs' creamy tenor was instantly identifiable in the '70s. His voice sounds remarkably unchanged, especially on such summery tunes as "Georgia'' and the lovely "Slow Dancer,'' the title track from his 1974 album.

Perhaps his energy level flags a bit on the "Silk Degrees'' classic "Lido Shuffle.'' Then again, he's been singing it for more than three decades. It doesn't seem to matter to the crowd, which you can count on jumping to its feet as soon as the song's chugging rhythm begins.

Scaggs' understated demeanor means he gives his six band members plenty of room to shine. There may be a little too much of his background singer, Monet, who has a tendency to mug to the crowd. But during "Miss Sun,'' she will sing a line and Scaggs would echo it on his guitar. The result is sweetly rewarding.

McDonald's time onstage feels less vital. It could be because he sits at the keyboard for the whole show. A setlist filled with overexposed cover tunes doesn't help any. He has recorded three collections of R&B oldies, but he doesn't do anything with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough'' or "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing'' to claim them as his own. A good Vegas lounge band would produce the same results.

On the other hand, McDonald takes Eddy Arnold's "You Don't Know Me,'' slows it to a crawl, and creates something that feels mournfully alive. It's the high point of his set.

At the halfway mark, McDonald tends to rush through the songs, as if he can't wait to get offstage and head back to the hotel. It's distracting, though there's no arguing with his solid versions of Doobie tunes "Minute By Minute'' and "What a Fool Believes,'' plus a muscular reading of Teddy Pendergrass' "Love T.K.O.''
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