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Three Uptown shows in a year — Scaggs likes the commute

CONCERT REVIEW: UPTOWN THEATRE, NAPA, CA 2011

L. PIERCE CARSON Napa Valley Register | Sunday, May 29, 2011

Explaining the reasons for his third appearance at Napa’s Uptown Theatre in less than a year, bluesman Boz Scaggs told Thursday night’s packed house:

“It’s an easy commute ... (and) I like playing for this audience.”

The expected response — the roar of a loyal crowd — gave way to a familiar intro to one of the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s enduring hits, “JoJo,” which eventually trots out the mean street escapades of the song’s protagonist. We’ve heard Scaggs perform this composition on numerous occasions and never tire of his mellow brush with the high life.

Now that Scaggs grows grapes, makes wine and lives here in the valley, we look forward to hearing a lot more often about JoJo and the other characters who inhabit the entertainer’s world.

Ohio-born, Texas-raised Scaggs started out as a guitar-slinging lover of raw blues. His first musical success came as a member of the Flower Power-era Steve Miller Band. But he made his greatest impact as the San Francisco purveyor of slick and elegantly executed white rhythm and blues, reaching his commercial peak with the multi-platinum “Silk Degrees” album of 1976. That recording spawned the disco-era megahits “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle,” both of which brought the major portion of the one-hour-40-minute show to a close the other night.

But the early ’70s bluesman was present as well, amply displayed in a gut-wrenching rendition of Fenton Robinson’s “Loan Me A Dime” that incorporated guitarist Drew Zingg’s blistering guitar solos during one of three encores. Not only that, Scaggs provided fans with a rocked-out rendition of the title track from his outstanding blues recording, “Some Change.”

A composition that he’s not performed for local audiences, “King of El Paso” — from the classy “Dig” release of a decade ago — had the headliner reliving youthful escapades in Texas. Recalling the Fats Domino era, Scaggs gave us yet another opportunity to soak up the honesty of Dave Bartholomew’s “Sick and Tired,” underscored by the soulful sax of Eric Crystal. Crystal and Michael Logan, who plays a mean Hammond B-3 organ, provided added texture and oomph to one of Scaggs’ favorites from the early ’70s, “Running Blues.”

A song this fan looks forward to on every Boz Scaggs set list is “Miss Sun,” a bluesy, in-your-face rocker that brings out the best in the band and turns the spotlight on nonpareil backup vocalist, Monet Owens. “Miss Monet” is a vocal powerhouse, who’s as adept at singing soul as she is rockin’ the house. We love her rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s “Let’s Give ’Em Something to Talk About”; although we’d love to hear her do something new the next time around.

Scaggs also reassured all hands — including wife, Dominique, who was on hand for the show — he’s still a romantic at heart, crooning in dulcet, late-night tones a couple of enduring ballads — “Love, Look What You’ve Done to Me,” from the soundtrack of “Urban Cowboy,” and the very poignant “Slow Dancer,” which had headliner trading solos with the organmeister.

To round out the evening, Scaggs reached back to 1980’s “Middle Man” for the third and final encore, a driving rocker that had everyone dancing, “Breakdown Dead Ahead.”

As Scaggs gets ready to celebrate his 67th birthday next week, he’s also gearing up for an East Coast summer tour, returning to the Pacific Northwest and California in September.

Maybe he could fit us in again in the fall. After all, it is a pretty sweet commute. But next time, let’s hope he includes a few of the songs from the great American songbook that he compiled on his two newest CDs. That’s a side of Boz we haven’t heard live for a few years. The withdrawal pangs are beginning to show. You can only shoot up iTunes so long.

Copyright 2011 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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