By Lori Engelfried/BAM Magazine
Valentina, a curly-haired wonder who must be all of three years old, raised those big blue eyes to the stage to watch the familiar figure of her uncle Boz. It was a sunshiny Sunday afternoon in May, and Boz Scaggs and his band were playing before Frost Amphitheatre's first ever pre-concert sell-out audience.
The timing was perfect. The audience was overjoyed to see him because he hadn't played the Peninsula for some time, and the songs from his new Silk Degrees album were freshin everyone's head.
Although not his usual foppish and fashionable self, Boz was comfortably colorful in pink slack, blue shirt, and sneakers. The afternoon's performance proved that clothes don't make the man... Boz Scaggs doesn't need white tie and tails, or even his Panama suit, to have one of the classiest acts to come out of the Bay' Area in a long time.
The hour-long set featured hits from the last eight years of Scaggs' career, as well as material from the new album. "Lowdown" was the first number, and by the time he got to "You Make It So Hard," the audience was on its feet. Boz smiled tolerantly (though kindly) at this reaction, and recommended that everyone sit down and relax.
"We have a lot of music planned for this afternoon," he promised, and the audience obediently settled back.
Scaggs seems to take pride in his well-bred relationship with his fans. They love him and his music madly, but he never lets them get too close or too excited. He keeps them at a distance with the same competence with which he controls his band. So many of his songs are of the emotional variety that send a shiver of recognition down one's backside, yet the man himself is at all times cool. Still, his music is what is important, and perhaps his fans are able to appreciate it all the more because Scaggs does stand back with his emotions. The man certainly has written a fine bunch of songs.
As Scaggs sang his little heart out (but tastefully, of course) and paced the center of the stage, the band spread out around him. The Scaggs influence was ever present, but he didn't hesitate to let the band have its share of the limelight.
The band consists of eight carefully selected members: David Paich (arranger and keyboards); David Hungate (bass); Jeff Pocaro on drums and his young brother Steve (whom Scaggs referred to as "the old man") on synthesizers and keyboards; Dan Ferguson (guitar); John Madrid (brass); Kevin Calhoun (percussion); and Steve Leeds (reeds and woodwinds). All are tight and tasteful musicians, and they make the music flow along at a very professional pace.
The two backup singers, Rebecca Louis and Phyllis St. James, knew just what to do. The two must have been working together for quite some time. Their voices blend perfectly and they moved their bodies as if to some lovingly remembered Supremes sway and bounce routine.
Scaggs keeps a nice balance between the moods of his songs. The sweet and lovely mush of such romancers as "Georgia" and "Slow Dancer" melted the audience completely, but he got everyone back into the swing of things with "Jump Street" and the mournful new rocker, "It's Over."
Scaggs and Company were called back for two enthusiastic encores (sorry, Boz - the audience just couldn't contain it by then). As a special treat, Boz brought back with him Les Dudek, whose band had preceded Scaggs on the bill.
Dudek is a hot young Southern guitarist, fast becoming a Bay Area favorite. It's not surprising that Scaggs likes to work with the guy and has even toured with him. Dudek sounds a lot like Steve Miller (a.k.a. the Gangster of Love, a.k.a. Space Cowboy, etc. etc.), both in his guitar riffs and in his singing style. Since Boz Scaggs started out with Miller, it is understandable that he likes to occasionally go back home again, or at least, to pretend.
Scaggs refused to do any more encores, and left the crowd eagerly plotting to see him again (he knows how to handle his audience all right). He disappeared into the privacy of a Winnebago with his wife (the beautiful cloud-haired woman from that old Paramount poster) and some other members of the Scaggs clan.
Boz Scaggs keeps his personal life separate from his performing life - and even when he is performing, he doesn't let his emotions get in the way. Yet his songs reveal the feelings that he represses onstage... and somehow you know that whatever Boz Scaggs writes about, well, he's gone through it all himself.