Thursday, June 25, 2009

6.25.09 BIG BOZ MAN

This review originaly appeared in the 6.25.09 issue of Metroland.

Shortly after getting this assignment on Monday I learned that Boz Scaggs’ last couple of albums were of jazz standards, so that was what I was expecting, and not too keenly. But this, his first Albany appearance ever, turned out to be a greatest hits show, which meant:

Silk Degrees, Scaggs’ 1974 masterpiece, in which he and the future members of Toto took a mess of fern-bar lounge-band affectations and made them somehow OK. Silk Degrees is basically one big hit, and the album you played when you had a girl visitor you didn’t know very well—you knew she was gonna like it, and despite its steady undercurrent of unctuousness, well, you really liked it, too. You even listened to it when there was nobody around.

Anyway, Scaggs and a crack 6-piece band (including the stellar guitarist Drew Zingg) chugged through most of Silk Degrees and the handful of hits from his other ‘70’s-80’s albums with style and grace, and a good measure of deep groove. Most songs got a rise from the audience reaction during the first bar, which was often little more than a beat. Scaggs sang great, and nailed the occasional guitar solo; people forget that he was an early lead guitarist for the Steve Miller Band, and an ace player. The sound was big and lush and delicious, with the keyboards pumping out vintage synthesized waves and everything absolutely in the right place. Talk about ear candy.

Back-up singer Monet nearly stole the show with a slightly over-the-top blast of Stevie Wonder’s “Until You Come Back To Me,” but the real meat of the matter arrived with the encore, an epic version of “Lend Me A Dime,” a blues classic from Scaggs’ first solo album, originally recorded with Duane Allman at Muscle Shoals. Scaggs dedicated the song to famed Muscle Shoals keyboardist /arranger Barry Beckett, who died last week, and then the band dug in for a ten-minute plus orgy of electric blues. It was jaw-dropping.

Speaking of jaw-dropping: Sean Rowe made a roomful of new fans with a gripping 30 minute set. Rowe’s voice is every bit as soulful as Scaggs’, and his delivery was dramatic and engaging. He completely reimagined two iconic classics, Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning 1952” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”, and played a bunch of originals that trade on silence as much as audacious bursts of sound. He commanded the undivided attention of the packed house, and got a big and deserved ovation at the end. Kudos to the local promoters who are putting Rowe on these shows. He belongs on the big stage.


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