Boz Scaggs: The Flynn Center, Burlington, VT June 29, 2010
The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
June 29, 2010
Boz Scaggs wasn't wearing a tuxedo June 29th, as he often did at the height of his popularity with Silk Degrees (Columbia, 1976), but much of the music he made at the Flynn sounded just as slick. The likes of "Lido Shuffle" elicited absolutely rapturous response from the audience, which gave the meatier blues portions of the show merely respectful response.
Give Scaggs credit where credit is due. He's assembled an efficient little band that sounds bigger than its sextet number. It easily (perhaps too easily) replicated the polished sound of its front man's most famous music. Saxophonist Eric Crystal also took care of the synthesized horn parts, while his counterpart Michael Logan added textured string parts from his bank of keyboards to fill out the lush romanticism of songs like "We're All Alone."
Fortunately, the latter player also added healthy doses of Hammond B3 organ to offset the unavoidably artificial sound of his own synthesizers. Skaggs clearly knew how to pace his sets, as well as lead a band through dollops of pure blues and variations on that theme in the form of "Runnin' Blue," injecting some real soul into the ninety minute-plus set.
Co-vocalist Ms Monet was featured on "Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About," demonstrating the kind of showmanship with which Scaggs, in his own slyly understated demeanor, is no doubt uncomfortable. Such obvious crowd-pleasing is a necessary evil, perhaps; but one that paled next to the genuinely dramatic theater that arose from the second encore of the night, a vibrant piece that echoed back to the muted version of Allen Toussaint's "Hercules," from early in the set..
It's worth wondering how many people in the sold-out audience were aware of Boz Scaggs' albums prior to his mainstream breakthroughparticularly his 1969 eponymous Atlantic debut, which climaxed, as this night on The Mainstage did, in the form of "Loan Me A Dime." Throughout the evening, Scaggs played more lead guitar than Drew Zing, and dominated this performance, but the two of them worked together to ratchet up the intensity of each other's playing, much as the late Duane Allman did by himself on the original studio version.
Scaggs refuses to allow himself to be trapped by the fame he (deservedly) earned for himself via his commercial success in the '70s. He clearly knows his demographic, too, as his most recent studio recordings, like Speak Low (Universal 2008), are aimed at the middle-aged group that filled The Flynn this cool summer night. Still, he's suave enough, even in jeans with his shirt un-tucked, to win over a crowd with earthy R&B. He might consider more such selections, leaving tunes like "Look What You've Done to Me"which drove the Vermonters to a swooning sing-alongto an extended medley