Boz Scaggs played with a hot touring band before a packed house last night at the State Theater in downtown Minneapolis. We’ve seen Boz there a few times before, but this performance was special. The appreciation of the audience was so intense you could feel it. Something was different. I couldn’t figure out what it was was. Even in the several lesser known blues numbers that he interspersed among the hits in his two-hour set, the crowd was ecstatic. Boz responded with three encores. I didn’t want the show to end but found it completely satisfying.
The crowd appreciated the singing — it even cheered Boz’s leaps to his falsetto — the musicians, the solos, the musicianship. Boz, by the way, is 73. He is still lanky and cool after all these years. Last night he turned back the hands of time.
We stopped in at the bar next door to the State at the Capital Grill to come down from the show. There was only one open seat, but a gentleman named Rick Thompson got up from his to let us take his next to the open seat. It turned out that Rick books the shows into the State and other downtown venues operated by the Hennepin Theater Trust. I asked Rick why the crowd feeling for Boz was so intense this time around. Rick had a ready answer that he provided with great certainty. “Tom Petty,” he said, referring to the Petty’s death last week. You can’t take it for granted that Boz will be back, he said. I was dubious, but it seemed like a reasonable hypothesis.
When Rick headed to the other end of the bar, a group of Power Line readers approached to say hello. They had seen the show too. Darcy Sperle and Derek Brigham are on the left and Brian Mason is on the right in the photo below. It was their first time seeing Boz perform live. Derek had come with his friends to see him perform this time around, he said, because of Tom Petty. Conclusion: Rick Thompson knows his business.
In 2009 we saw Boz perform live with a jazz combo in Minneapolis at the Dakota Restaurant and Jazz Club. Boz put on a beautiful show in an intimate setting, covering some of the standards he had recorded in recent years as well as reinterpreting his hits of the ’70’s. We loved the show.
Boz returned to town later that year with a new touring unit to play the State Theater before a sold-out crowd of old fans. With a larger audience the emphasis was naturally on his old hits rather than his new recordings. That night he spoke fondly of Minneapolis, recalling his first time through town many years ago at the old Guthrie Theater as well as subsequent stops at First Avenue. Backed by a crack five-piece band and accompanied by vocal sidekick Monet Owens, Boz sounded better than ever.
In 2010 Boz returned, this time to the Minnesota State Fair on a cold and rainy night to perform with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald in the group they called the Dukes of September. I thought Boz was the first among equals that night. In concert Boz always plays his first hit, the irresistible “Lowdown.” I think I could name that tune in two notes from the drum riff alone. The video below is from a performance with the Dukes of September a few years ago.
In his first encore last night Boz played his smoldering version of Fenton Robinson’s “Loan Me a Dime,” one of the highlights of his debut solo album nearly fifty years ago. I love this song. The guitar solos inevitably bring to mind the late Duane Allman’s contribution to Boz’s original recording of it. The song is an extended outpouring of grief for love lost. Boz’s vocal cried it out. The lead guitar player (I missed his name) killed it on his solo. The video below is from Boz’s Greatest Hits Live DVD, on which he played in San Francisco at his home base.
Boz is still a vital artist. He enlisted producer Steve Jordan to take the helm of his 2013 disc Memphis, recorded at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios in the town for which Boz named the disc. Memphis featured Boz’s favorite soul and blues numbers. His take on “Rainy Night in Georgia” is almost naked in its emotion. I thought some readers might enjoy this.
Boz played his uptempo hit “Georgia” last night. Listening to this, you can’t be unhappy, can you?
Boz sent us on our way with Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” a song that also drew from his work with the Dukes of September. What a blast. Berry, one of the founding fathers of rock, died this past March.
Boz’s tour continues tomorrow night with a show in Billings. After that he’s headed to points west in Canada and California. The tour dates are listed here.