Boz Scaggs/ Photo by Deborah Feingold
Boz Scaggs, eminence grise of blue-eyed soul, tried to stake a claim Thursday at the State Theatre that he still matters.
He offered a sampling from his new album “Memphis,” which is a tribute to vintage Southern soul sounds. “Rainy Night in Georgia,” the 1970 Brook Benton hit, was the perfect song for this master of understatement. Less is more worked wonderfully on this lament of loneliness. Scaggs followed with the traditional “Corrina Corrina,” which featured his pretty solo on acoustic guitar. “Dry Spell,” another selection from “Memphis,” was a gritty blues in the tradition of John Lee Hooker that fit nicely with Scaggs’ repertoire.
He knows where his bread is buttered and therefore did a healthy serving from 1976’s “Silk Degrees,” which was his commercial apex. Backed by members of Toto on that LP, Scaggs defined blue-eyed soul in the disco era with a danceable mélange of soul and jazz. The full house at the State got on their feet for “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle” and “Georgia.” Scaggs sang rising line after rising line, often effortlessly easing into a falsetto.
In the middle of his “Silk Degrees” selections, the frontman made his money move – allowing backup singer Ms Monet to cut loose on a medley of Sly Stone’s slowed down “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) and Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You.” With her fiery gospel voice, she always raises the roof, providing a striking contrast to Scaggs’ soft, easy gentlemanly soul style.
Even though he’s so nonchalant and unassuming, Scaggs, 68, understands how tension in his music increases its power and impact. That was best exemplified during the 15-minute encore treatment of Fenton Robinson’s “Loan Me a Dime,” a simmering blues that features organ solos and eventually guitar exchanges between Scaggs and Drew Zingg (who took the parts played by Duane Allman on Scaggs’ 969 recording of the tune).
Thursday’s quite satisfying 100-minute performance may not have been as thrilling as the first time I saw Scaggs 40 years ago at the Guthrie Theater, but it was the best of the three shows he’s given at the State in recent years.
Here is Thursday’s set list:
Running Blues/ Dry Spell/ Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl/ High Sierra/ Rainy Night in Georgia/ Corrina Corrina/ Gone Baby Gone/ Lowdown/ Miss Sun/ Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) >I Thank You (sung by Ms Monet)/ Harbor Lights/ Georgia/ Lido Shuffle/ What Can I Say ENCORE Loan Me a Dime ENOCRE 2 Breakdown Dead Ahead