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Boz Scaggs Concert Review - The Grove of Anaheim 2010

Several shades of Boz Scaggs at Grove gig

By George A. Paul
For The Orange County Register
June 9, 2010

The veteran smooth rocker celebrated his 66th birthday with a multifaceted show at the Grove.

Nice and smooth -- that was the modus operandi for much of Boz Scaggs’ 90-minute O.C. concert Tuesday night. No surprise there.

After a spacey blues-rock stint in 1967-68 with frequent collaborator Steve Miller, the singer-guitarist became a prominent purveyor of blue-eyed soul, alongside Hall & Oates, Average White Band and others during the '70s.

Article Tab : scaggs-anaheim-tuesday-boPhoto by Kelly A. Swift, for The Orange County Register.

Early on, Scaggs recorded with the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and put out several critically acclaimed albums. But he found major success with 1976’s Silk Degrees, a sleek melange of R&B, pop, rock and disco that became a multi-platinum totem of the decade and spun off three multi-format Top 40 singles. Scaggs then reached his commercial zenith in 1980, when both his ninth album Middle Man and the compilation Hits! kept him in the upper echelon of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for an entire year.

Yet, retreating from the spotlight, he next focused on running San Francisco nightclub Slim’s and released just one other album in the '80s. The next two decades found him unveiling new material only sporadically, delving into blues and, more recently, tackling standards (see 2003’s casual, jazzy But Beautiful or 2008’s Speak Low, featuring Rogers & Hart and Hoagy Carmichael interpretations).

Scaggs also became a winemaker and added another music venue to his business portfolio (the baroque, century-old Great American Music Hall, where I had the pleasure of seeing Brendan Benson last year on a trip to the Bay Area).

The veteran musician -- who turned 66 at this Grove of Anaheim gig -- was greeted by fans at the slightly more than half-filled venue who constantly shouted “happy birthday!” (Later, Scaggs’ six-piece band would mark the occasion by uncorking some poppers and indulging a quick serenade.)

Despite his reputation for penning romantic songs, Scaggs really excels at bluesier numbers, like the two vintage ones that bookended his 14-song set. Opener “Runnin’ Blue,” from 1971’s Boz Scaggs & Band, found the frontman displaying tasteful electric guitar chops as the other musicians took turns at solos. Then it was onto the luxurious groove of “Jojo," prompting a wildly enthusiastic audience response.

Before launching into the more rock-oriented “Some Change,” Scaggs said, “We haven’t done this one in a while. I wish we’d brought it out a few years ago,” referring to the Barack Obama election period. The humorous cover of Fats Domino’s “Sick and Tired” brought some New Orleans style boogie-woogie to the proceedings, with Michael Logan playing fine barrelhouse piano and backing singer Miss Monet giving it her sassy best.

Bassist Richard Patterson and Monet’s robust harmonies throughout the show proved invaluable, especially whenever Scaggs’ creamy upper range thinned out (as it did during the idyllic “Harbor Lights,” a sweeping “Georgia” and the stark, piano-led drama of “Look What You’ve Done to Me”). The seated audience was up and dancing briefly amid the jazzy, more-sedate-than-usual “Lowdown,” a favorite to sample among rappers over the years.

For a while, Scaggs appeared to run on autopilot onstage, but he eventually loosened up during the latter track’s ad-libbed ending. “Miss Sun” resulted in a fun exchange when Scaggs’ electric guitar and Monet’s cries tangled for some call-and-response action. The gospel/soul take on Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” found Scaggs content to play subtle rock flourishes in the background, while Monet led the way with Aretha Franklin-style wails.

Scaggs and guitarist Drew Zingg bolstered “Lido Shuffle” by appending some blues licks, and that main set closer had fans clapping and singing along loudly. Come encore time, the flowery disco vibe of “What Can I Say” found Scaggs hitting both the high and low notes with ease (maybe he just needed to warm up awhile).

But the show’s shining moment was saved for last: an epic blues jam workout on “Loan Me a Dime,” off his 1969 self-titled debut, originally featuring guitarist Duane Allman. Scaggs totally immersed himself in the tune, displaying dexterous tandem runs with Zingg and singing with authority, as if a fog had been lifted. Meanwhile, the band pulled out all the stops instrumentally. I wouldn’t have minded witnessing more of Scaggs' repertoire that way.

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