Boz Scaggs at the State Fair in 2010
Star Tribune photo by Joel Koyama
It never occurred to me until Saturday night at the State Theatre that Boz Scaggs may have been a smooth-jazz pioneer. His slick, urbane R&B lite sounded so smooth and pseudo-sophisticated (there was even soprano sax) in concert -- to the delight of a near-capacity crowd of baby boomers.
Scaggs, 66, was in good voice (still creamy, though a tad thin on “Harbor Lights”), and he surrounded himself with a very good band of polished pros. But he seemed so stuck in the ‘70s: Slick, smooth and easy. Despite some detours to New Orleans tunes, he didn’t challenge himself or his band often enough. To be sure, he was lovably mellow and soulful. But, in his 45-plus-year career, Scaggs has worn several hats -- including blues-rock guitarist (he was in the Steve Miller Band), bluesman, jazz singer and bluegrass picker -- and he didn't try many of them on at the State. (Frankly, the reserved Scaggs seems most comfortable – and most expressive with his guitar – onstage as a sideman, a point he underscored in an interview last year before his State Fair gig with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald.)
During his 1 ¾-hour concert Saturday, Scaggs waited a long time to shift out of smooth-jazz on Saturday. In fact, it took being upstaged by his backup singer, Miss Monet, when she sang the Bonnie Raitt hit, “Something To Talk About,” to spark Scaggs. She received a louder and longer ovation than her boss had all night. So the blue-eyed soul man shifted gears, thrilling the crowd with the disco era fave “Lido Shuffle.”
For the encore, Scaggs dusted off his 1969 FM classic, “Loan Me a Dime.” The original 13-minute recorded version features scorching guitar work by both Scaggs and Duane Allman. Drew Zingg is no Duane Allman but he did up the ante (as did B-3 organist Mike Logan) on this long, intoxicating blues jam. Although this reading never fully combusted like the original, it was still a treat to hear “Dime.” And it gave hard-core Boz fans something to talk about.
Runnin Blues/ JoJo/ Hercules/ The Desire/ Some Change/ Sick & Tired (Fats Domino)/ Harbor Lights/ Lowdown/ Miss Sun/ Something to Talk About (Miss Monet singing Bonnie Raitt hit)/ Georgia/ Lido Shuffle ENCORE What Can I Say/ Loan Me a Dime/ Breakdown Dead Ahead
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