Blue-Eyed Soul Singer Boz Scaggs Seduces a Sold out Strathmore Audience
Call Boz Scagg’s music blue-eyed soul, rock, blues rock, soft rock, jazz rock, whatever – he rocked the house.
Despite a wild thunder storm that tied up traffic an hour before the 8 p.m. showtime, a short blackout in the Strathmore Music Hall – and a longer blackout in the large parking garage next door, the Boz Scaggs show was a model of perfection.
The audience, most of whom grew up listening to Boz Scaggs, was in a festive mood pre-show as they noshed on entrees or appetizers topped off with wine. The storm was quickly forgiven – if not forgotten.
The normally uber-friendly ushers were even more so. Like the audience they were pumped, eager for the show to start.
The stage set up had to have been put together rapidly – but it wasn’t apparent. Boz Scaggs and his crew are in the middle of a grueling concert-in-a-different-city-each-day schedule, promoting his most recent album, A Fool To Care, released earlier this summer.
Like Boz Scaggs himself, the set was sleek, elegant and casual. No flashy props, no disco balls or fireworks. To boot: no lines of dancers or anybody swinging in a trapeze. No tricks.
It was all about the music. What a treat!
The show’s mood was set by lighting effects that changed quickly but subtly to highlight a performer, or reflect the mood of a music segment.
The amount of musical instruments onstage was mind-boggling. There were two sets of drums, one encircled by a clear acoustic shield. Several keyboards and piano were visible, as was a rack holding three brass horns. About eight guitars were stationed around the stage; guitarist Mike Miller had four different guitars in his area.
It appeared Boz Scaggs had an entire orchestra waiting backstage.
Surprisingly, what walked out onto the stage, completely bathed in Bromo blue light, were six multi-generational men, wearing black shirts and pants.
The men, it turned out, area multi-tasking, multi-talented musicians, all able to beautifully play a variety of instruments.
In addition to Miller, the musicians included jazz and funk drummer Gene Lake; bassist and Music Director Richard Patterson; Michael Logon on keyboards; percussionist and drummer Lamar Carter; and Eric Crystal on horns, keyboard and melodica.
Stage right, against the wall, two men handled the synthesizers and other electronics on their bank of Apple laptops. Stage left, another assistant stood by to hand Boz Scaggs a fresh electric or acoustic guitar between nearly each of the 16 songs he performed.
Boz, whose formal name is Willim Royce Scaggs, strolled onstage with the other men, wearing a crisp, white, untucked shirt and black stovepipe jeans. No spangles, no glitz, no pretension.
Throughout the show, Boz Scaggs seldom strayed from the center of the stage. He’s not the type to give a shout-out to a guy in the back row, or tell the latest joke. His focus was on the music.
And breezy, jazzy, bluesy – it was rock with a brain.
The live wire of the bunch – and the hands-down scene stealer – was the group’s longtime female singer Ms. Monét (Conesh Monét Owen), a voluptuous woman wearing a second-skin dress. She had a voice that could alternately caress the listener or break a window.
She strode up and down the left side of the stage in her high, studded platform stilettos, encouraging the audience to hoot, clap, stand or boogie in their seats.
She was the Ying to Boz Scaggs’ Yang.
But, not so fast.
Now 71, Boz Scaggs still has the pipes of his younger days. His blue eyes narrowed to slits, he crooned as his hands played magic tricks with his guitars. He and his band both enticed amazing sounds from their instruments during lyric-free segments extending five or more minutes at a time.
The playlist included songs Boz Scaggs composed, covers of other artists’ songs, or songs he co-wrote with David W. Foster, William R. Royce and others.
The list was a time-travel through his hits over the past five decades: “Runnin’ Blue”; “Mixed Up,” “Shook Up Girl”; “JoJo”; “Rich Woman”;”Last Tango on 16th Street” – a mournful piano solo that segues to an upbeat tango rhythm; “Hell to Pay” – a duet he recorded on his new album with Bonne Rait;”Georgia”; “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” – Ms. Monét did some vocal acrobatics on this one, earning a standing ovation; “Look What You’ve Done to Me; Lowdown; and Lido Shuffle.”
The show reached a crescendo. The audience was on its feet again. Ms. Monét, Boz Scaggs, and the musicians bowed and waltzed off stage.
The audience began to leave.
The gang returned.
As the audience cheered, they swung into “There’s a Storm A Comin’“; “What Can I Say”; and “Loan Me a Dime.”
Boz Scaggs introduced his crew, and lavishly complimented the Strathmore staff. They bowed and egressed. The assistants slapped their Apple laptops closed. Some folks made it to the doors.
They were back. To a steady chugging rhythm, they tore into “Sick and Tired.” It was boogie time. The audience screamed with delight.
This time the show was over? Nope.
These maniacs were back again. For the third encore.
The audience went wild.
“This is what – ? Tuesday?” asked Boz Scaggs, a big smile spreading across his face. “What do you guys do on weekends?”
(Seriously, did James Brown do this many encores? It was fun!)
The gang performed Harbor Lights – and finally left when the house lights came on.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, with no intermission.