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Boz Scaggs Concert Reviews - Flynn Center - Burlington, VT 2010

Review: Four decades fly by as Boz Scaggs strikes huge chord at Flynn

By Paul Kaza, Free Press Correspondent • Thursday, July 1, 2010

Forty years fly by when you’re having fun. Boz Scaggs released his first solo album in 1970, and he gave us some of the finest fruits of his labors Tuesday night at the Flynn Center.

Scaggs was a darling of the mid-‘70s, turning out a crop of best-selling singles that became “sing-along standards” and sold millions of albums just as pop was starting to shift into high disco gear. I’ve always felt that Scaggs was unfairly ruled “guilty by association” amongst purists who couldn’t deal with his music being so commercially viable. They preferred his earliest days playing guitar with Steve Miller, and his blues tinged materials.

Would we hear any blues? Could he still play the way he used to? Was his voice still strong? Yes, yes, and yes (considering how high a vocal range he employs). Probably the biggest surprise was that he did not play nor promote his entirely new foray into jazz standards, and only pulled one song (“Thanks to You”) from the outstanding 2001 release “Dig.”

“Jo Jo” got things under way, and it seemed for a moment that the singer, band and crowd all needed to get settled in a bit. The only real stage energy came from Scaggs’ outstanding female backup vocalist. “Hercules,” written by Allen Toussaint, was surprising; we wondered whether Scaggs knew Toussaint had just been here at the Discover Jazz Festival. “Slow Dancer” was another low key choice, but evoked the lovely visual associations of that songwriting period.

Scaggs showed throughout that he still has guitar chops that are easy to call on, and stepped up the tempo as he lit into “Lowdown” and “Miss Sun” before relenting to the romantic “Look What You’ve Done to Me.” It seemed he had conserved his vocal energy for the finale and nailed the top end in a blistering version of “Breakdown Dead Ahead.” This song had the challenge of standing up to the multiple hits that originated with “Silk Degrees.” The crowd was on its feet, and Scaggs obliged with a two-part encore, including mega hits “What Can I Say” and “Georgia” before returning the music full circle to his very first solo release. Back then, he was dueling with Duane Allman in a session down in Muscle Shoals — and he has never really stopped ascending since.

Scaggs has evolved from simply a blues guy (early days) to a notable songwriter/hitmaker (mid-career), and then made not one but two big comebacks late in his career. There are very, very few musicians who have pulled that off. And, in Vermont for the first-time ever, Scaggs slowly yet steadily set the night on fire. The embers will glow long past morning.

Boz Scaggs Concert Review

Boz Scaggs: The Flynn Center, Burlington, VT June 29, 2010

By Doug Collette

Boz Scaggs
The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
Burlington, Vermont
June 29, 2010

Boz Scaggs wasn't wearing a tuxedo June 29th, as he often did at the height of his popularity with Silk Degrees (Columbia, 1976), but much of the music he made at the Flynn sounded just as slick. The likes of "Lido Shuffle" elicited absolutely rapturous response from the audience, which gave the meatier blues portions of the show merely respectful response.

Give Scaggs credit where credit is due. He's assembled an efficient little band that sounds bigger than its sextet number. It easily (perhaps too easily) replicated the polished sound of its front man's most famous music. Saxophonist Eric Crystal also took care of the synthesized horn parts, while his counterpart Michael Logan added textured string parts from his bank of keyboards to fill out the lush romanticism of songs like "We're All Alone."

Fortunately, the latter player also added healthy doses of Hammond B3 organ to offset the unavoidably artificial sound of his own synthesizers. Scaggs clearly knew how to pace his sets, as well as lead a band through dollops of pure blues and variations on that theme in the form of "Runnin' Blue," injecting some real soul into the ninety minute-plus set.

Co-vocalist Ms Monet was featured on "Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About," demonstrating the kind of showmanship with which Scaggs, in his own slyly understated demeanor, is no doubt uncomfortable. Such obvious crowd-pleasing is a necessary evil, perhaps; but one that paled next to the genuinely dramatic theater that arose from the second encore of the night, a vibrant piece that echoed back to the muted version of Allen Toussaint's "Hercules," from early in the set..

It's worth wondering how many people in the sold-out audience were aware of Boz Scaggs' albums prior to his mainstream breakthrough--particularly his 1969 eponymous Atlantic debut, which climaxed, as this night on The Mainstage did, in the form of "Loan Me A Dime." Throughout the evening, Scaggs played more lead guitar than Drew Zing, and dominated this performance, but the two of them worked together to ratchet up the intensity of each other's playing, much as the late Duane Allman did by himself on the original studio version.

Scaggs refuses to allow himself to be trapped by the fame he (deservedly) earned for himself via his commercial success in the '70s. He clearly knows his demographic, too, as his most recent studio recordings, like Speak Low (Universal 2008), are aimed at the middle-aged group that filled The Flynn this cool summer night. Still, he's suave enough, even in jeans with his shirt un-tucked, to win over a crowd with earthy R&B. He might consider more such selections, leaving tunes like "Look What You've Done to Me"--which drove the Vermonters to a swooning sing-along--to an extended medley

 

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