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Boz Scaggs Concert Review - Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium 2010

Scaggs sticks to tried and true

By ALYSSA NOEL, Edmonton Sun
Last Updated: June 22, 2010


Who needs a new album as an excuse to tour when you’ve got a well-loved discography that spans four decades?

Certainly not Boz Scaggs, who ran through his extensive body of work at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium Tuesday night.

Within the first few lyrics of show opener Jojo, a voice in the crowd sighed with relief, “Ah, he sounds exactly the same!”It was apparent from the beginning the years haven’t chipped away at his coolness either.

Scaggs appeared comfortable, though not bored, his head tilted back slightly as he belted out well-worn lines in his unmistakable craggy voice.

Contemporary

As many Edmontonians learned last week from Scaggs’ contemporary, Tom Petty, new songs from old rockers can be a bore.

Even if they’re great, they’re still not infused with the same memories and meaning that old songs have had years to collect.

In that vein, Scaggs delivered hit after hit, barely even pausing to acknowledge the crowd or offer obligatory Calgary-bashing banter.

On Hercules, back-up singer Miss Monet’s chops were on display, alongside Scaggs’ guitar often-overlooked skills.

Slow Dancer stopped the jubilant head-bobbing as the crowd was lulled by a stream of pale, blue light.

Next up was a “song about change, a word that’s used a lot these days,” Scaggs said, possibly referring to his president’s campaign slogan.

Although his foot-tapping during that track, Some Change, remained reserved, the hit roused some to do the awkward “seat dance” that’s necessary at many auditorium shows.

Throughout, he made only slow, lazy movements as if he was reserving all his energy for his voice, the real reason everyone was there. Or maybe it was just that old-school-cool demeanor on display.

Still, a rousing cover of Fats Domino’s I’m Sick and Tired kicked up the atmosphere a notch with the piano and saxophone running at full tilt.

Scaggs does, indeed, boast an epic backing band of veterans. The 66- year-old has been slapped with several titles over his many years in the business.

He was a bluesy-rock star at the helm of several Steve Miller band tracks at the beginning of his career in the late 60s.

Breaking out on his own at the end of that decade, he slipped into a more blue-eyed soul role, with help from famed backing band, Muscle Shoals Rhythm, which included the late, great guitarist Duane Allman.

Scaggs has played gently with disco vibes, prominently with jazz (though he reportedly humbly declines the label of jazz singer) and comfortably with R and B.

While his rapidly expanding catalogue received much critical acclaim, it wasn’t until 1976’s Silk Degrees — boasting hits like Lowdown and Lido Shuffle (which features the well-known “Whoa –oh-oh-oh” refrain that anyone born before 1990 will probably recognize) — that he really became a star.

Spawning

After spawning a pair of hits – Jojo and Breakdown Dead Ahead — from the 1980 album Middle Man, Scaggs traded in the music spotlight to run San Francisco bar, Slim’s. He released just one other album that decade, but reappeared throughout the 90s with new discs and a greatest hits.

His most recent effort, 2008’s Speak Low, rips pages from the American Songbook, and features a collection of breezy standards.

His Edmonton show featured a range of it all, including a thrilling cover of Bonnie Raitt’s Something to Talk About.

Earlier, opener David Jacobs-Strain was introduced as the kind of act you might see while slugging back a pint at Slim’s.

Wearing a ball cap, jeans and leather jacket with a fresh, young face, he was clearly born long after Scaggs first emerged on the scene.

No matter.

His incendiary guitars skills — picking, sliding, all out wailing on his poor, ol’ acoustic — elicited appreciative, sincere, hoots from the crowd.

In his younger days, he explained he caught flak for playing “age inappropriate tunes” before launching, appropriately, into a Robert Johnson song, You Better Come into my Kitchen Baby.

His bluesy growl, fiery passion and self-labelled geekabilly sound filled up the entire auditorium, making it clear why Scaggs (presumably) picked him.

Scaggs’ excellent taste is not surprising. With a career nearly twice as old as this reviewer, Scaggs has had a good long while to develop an ear for the next big thing.

Boz Scaggs article Edmonton Journal 2010

Boz Scaggs
 
Tom Murray, Freelance
June 18, 2010
 
Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Jubilee Auditorium

Tickets: $53.15 to $74.15, available from Ticketmaster, 780-451-8000

- - -

It's been more than three decades since his biggest album and Boz Scaggs may still be the coolest man in rock. Not in terms of present-day notions of hipness -- oh no -- but in vocal delivery, laconic stage presence, attire, and a stubborn refusal to bend to any trend after Silk Degrees tore through the charts in 1976.

And really, why would you want to even consider changing it up after inventing the most utterly elegant black tie soul-funk, along with future members of the band Toto? Lowdown, Harbor Lights and We're All Alone are classics of their kind, Yacht Rock mainstays of such silky smooth sophistication that they remain high on the list of seduction anthems, ahead of even R Kelly or Johnny Mathis. For full effect, martinis must be sipped while listening to this music, sunglasses must be worn, and most importantly, they need to be played at 5 a.m., hopefully on a beach.

It's tough to beat an album like Silk Degrees, and while Scaggs gave it a try (two more hits a few years later with Jojo and Breakdown Straight Ahead), it was inevitable that he try his hand with R 'n' B and smooth jazz as the '90s came to a close. Blues is also still a big part of his show. Last year's Edmonton Folk Festival appearance had Scaggs tearing through a scorching solo on Loan Me a Dime, demonstrating his often-underrated abilities as a guitarist.

There's no need for ironic detachment to enjoy Boz Scaggs, just an appreciation for smooth music and a date on your arm.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

 

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