HYANNIS Before he was the purveyor of seductive swinging R&B, Boz Scaggs first established himself as a blues man with school chum Steve Miller.
So it was fitting that last evening at the Cape Cod Melody Tent Scaggs closed out his show with the classic Somebody Loan Me A Dime. It's a song that starts out with an organ line that curls itself around a mood and doesn't let go. Scaggs injects his own soulful guitar playing, weaving it in, building the atmosphere.
When he stepped up to the mike and asked to borrow a dime to call his old-time used-to-be, there was no doubt we were fully in the world of the blues.
Dressed all in black, with long silvery hair, Scaggs was a long way from when he recorded two albums with Miller, Sailor and Children of the Future, in the 1960s. His first solo album came out in 1969 and featured Duane Allman on the slide guitar on Loan Me A Dime. He recently toured with Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.
While his first album was critically well received, Scaggs hit commercial paydirt with the 1976 album Silk Degrees, which reached No. 2 on U.S. charts. He followed that success with another, the album Middle Man in 1980, which also spawned some popular singles.
For most of last night's show, Scaggs and his band worked the hit train, opening with Jo Jo, bathed in purple mood lighting for Harbor Lights, flirting with disco on Lowdown and Miss Sun, and generating a big sing-along for the gambling man Lido.
Scaggs still has the same nasalized but silky smooth voice that seems so effortless at conveying emotion. His is a world of gamblers, love newly gained and lost, and obsessions that end up rewarded, sometimes, but more often than not take on a life of their own.
Georgia may be a pretty bouncy tune, but when the moonlight in the pines turns to searchlights and jail, it's more romance novel than the blues. Still, with a solid band behind him, Scaggs dipped into other venues with Fats Domino's I'm Sick and Tired of Fooling Around With You and went on a feral prowl with Allen Toussaint's Hercules.
But the audience really was here for the hits and the band played them in great style, with Scaggs' velvet voice still a pleasure to listen to after all these years.