LIVE: Boz Scaggs @ The Egg, 11/13/15

December 1st, 2015, 3:00 pm by Greg

Review by Steven Stock

William Royce Scaggs – you can call him Boz – and his seven-piece backing ensemble took a while to build a full head of steam at The Egg on a recent Friday night. Opening with “Runnin’ Blue” from 1971’s Boz Scaggs & Band, the 71-year-old singer-guitarist performed a generous career-spanning overview that effectively mixed the hits you’d expect (notably “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle”), lesser-known album tracks and some intriguing cover versions.

Mink DeVille’s “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl” and the gutbucket country blues of Li’l Millet & His Creoles’ “Rich Woman” were both delivered with verve, but their placement so early in the set seemed to perplex some in the almost-filled Hart Theatre (Scaggs had sold out the joint only fifteen months ago). After that, the show gained momentum, helped first by a terse, understated yet very tasty blues guitar solo during “Some Change” and then by a beautifully-orchestrated version of the moody ballad “Harbor Lights.” Michael Logan’s Fender Rhodes meshed perfectly with Michael Logan Jr.’s shimmering percussion on this Silk Degrees track.

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Next up was another cut from 1976’s Silk Degrees, “Georgia.” Perhaps some readers are too young to recall this album’s phenomenal success. Featuring three musicians who subsequently formed the core of Toto, Silk Degrees climbed to the second spot on the US album charts, stayed on the charts for 115 weeks and eventually sold over five million copies, transforming Scaggs from a journeyman into a pop superstar. While “Georgia” wasn’t one of the album’s three singles, it became an FM radio staple and remains a crowd-pleaser in live performance.

Scaggs warned the audience to “buckle up your seat belts” before turning lead vocal duties over to Conesha Owens (aka Ms. Monet), whose sassy version of Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back to Me” earned the evening’s first standing ovation. Alas, just as things were getting great Scaggs and crew derailed the festivities with the morose cliché-riddled power ballad “Look What You’ve Done to Me,” a god-awful hit from 1980’s “Urban Cowboy” soundtrack. Yuck!

A slinky sexy version of “Lowdown” got the show back on track, enlivened by more delicious Fender Rhodes and a brash solo from second guitarist Michael Miller, and for the rest of the evening Scaggs and band were virtually unstoppable. The infectious “Lido Shuffle” had nearly everyone either clapping or singing along and, of course, ensured that we’d demand an encore.

“I was looking for material,” recounted Scaggs, “and my son asked me to listen to some songs by a British artist who I’d never heard of. His name is Richard Hawley. I listened to a song, and I was really quite taken by him. I listened to one after another. I just really was taken by having discovered a new voice, a new artist, new words – I felt like I could’ve done a whole album of just his material.” “There’s a Storm a Comin’” indeed proved to be a beautiful composition, and bassist-musical director Bishop Patterson’s arrangement showed the band’s ample talent to full advantage.

“What Can I Say,” a lightweight R&B workout, revisited the halcyon days of Silk Degrees one last time. A lengthy version of Fenton Robinson’s “Loan Me a Dime,” a twelve-bar blues from Scaggs’ self-titled second album (#496 on Rolling Stone’s 2012 list of the Top 500 albums), definitely merited demand for another encore, despite the absence of Duane Allman’s slide guitar on this rendition. “Well, this is fun!,” commented Scaggs before ripping into the Chris Kenner-by-way-of-Fats Domino New Orleans nugget “Sick & Tired.” Finally, nearly two hours after he’d started, Scaggs sent us home with “Last Tango on 16th Street,” a track written by his San Francisco Mission District neighbor Jack Walroth that featured a gorgeous melodica solo from Eric Preston.

Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “The 71-year-old appears in great shape, thin and refined. The ultra-cool ‘Low Down’ came toward the end of the show. How did such a subtle, stylish tune make it so big? The band delivered all the good parts: the funky bass line, the tinny-sounding hi-hat groove, the hipster synth riff that sounds like a flute. The poor guy has probably played ‘Lido Shuffle’ at every one of his shows since 1976. It’s a fun song, and it came with good energy Friday night, but it felt a bit like a cliché. Songs like that make a career, and he knows not to look a gift-horse in the mouth. He brought out a guest to sing ‘Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),’ made famous by Aretha Franklin. She was a shouter, was too much volume for the band, and the song wasn’t necessary, but it gave Scaggs a brief break before heading into the final stretch of the show.”