Boz Scaggs Stafford Centre February 17, 2011
While mellow modern jazz players have hijacked and ruined the word "smooth" as a synonym for blandness, Thursday night Boz Scaggs helped reclaim the adjective as a positive attribute in a powerful show laden with most of his best-known numbers.
"Cool" would definitely be another word to describe the 66-year-old singer/guitarist who has lost none of his playing prowess, and whose voice retains almost the exact timbre from the era of Silk Degrees, Down Two Then Left and Middle Man. A crack, six-piece backing band including longtime vocalist, the incendiary Miss Monet, added a solid gutbucket groove to much of the material, and Scaggs was obviously comfortable with them throughout.
Unlike many of his classic-rock contemporaries, Scaggs straddled multiple genres, including ballads, big band, blues, jazz, rockers, and even the occasional disco number. And while that may have hurt his career in terms of identifiability, it made for more than satisfying 90-minute show.
The generous helping of tunes from Scaggs' most successful record, 1976's Silk Degrees, got the biggest audience reaction, especially "Georgia" and "Lido Shuffle." And the Urban Cowboy soundtrack ballad "Look What You've Done to Me" - delivered in an alternately peaceful and heated romantic reading - plucked it out of the cinematic visual where Texas Pam looked over the Houston skyline in her Galleria-area high rise while seducing John Travolta.
Welcome additions included some lesser-known tacks like a cover of Allen Toussaint's "Hercules" (the New Orleans composer is a Scaggs favorite). Also, the title track from his underrated 1994 Some Change release, came with lyrics the laid-back Scaggs noted are certainly applicable to today's political and economic climate.
Miss Monet got plenty of chance to wail, with a skill and control lost amidst today's American Idol-style vocal gymnasts, on the playful "Miss Sun" duet with Scaggs and her own spotlight on Bonnie Raitt's "Something To Talk About." How her sexily ample figure snugged into that tight, tight black dress proved that Scaggs must have at least one Army Corps engineer on the road crew.
Things neared a close with a lengthy version of bluesman Fenton Robinson's "Loan Me a Dime." And while the epic number has long been a Scaggs staple that sometimes veers into staidness, Thursday it held an elevating power, allowing both headliner and each musician a chance to play together as a seamless unit.
"Since we're in Texas, we've gotta play some blues," Scaggs, who grew up in Dallas, told the crowd. But none of the near-capacity crowd left this show feeling anything but elated.
Personal Bias: Lifelong fan, though even I can't defend "Heart of Mine." Classic Rock Bob and Classic Rock Brother even got their late father's much-played copy of Silk Degrees signed during a pre-show meet and greet with Boz. The LP - purchased for $4.99 at a Stop 'n Go in 1977! - hangs on the wall of Classic Rock Office.
The Crowd: Mostly well-dressed fifty- and sixtysomethings. A few teenage daughters with their dads. A handful of grey ponytails on men.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Why did they close the bar so early?"
Random Notebook Dump: "Sound quality here is amazing. What? Nothing from Dig??? Damn! I can't see any panty lines on Miss Monet."
Runnin' Blue Jojo Hercules (Allen Toussaint cover) Some Change Sick and Tired (Fats Domino cover) Lowdown Georgia Miss Sun Something to Talk About (feat. Miss Monet) Look What You've Done to Me Lido Shuffle
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Loan Me a Dime (Fenton Robinson cover) Breakdown Dead Ahead