I was lucky enough to procure a ticket for the second night of a performance by Boz Scaggs at the Las Vegas Hilton Theater, a longtime veteran of the musical world whose whose music, although very popular, is difficult to define. The closest definition to Mr. Scaggs unique voice is silky, smooth, utterly romantic. The last I had heard Mr. Scaggs, the circumstances were nowhere near the current gestalt of what his talent offers. Apparently after a concert at the House of Blues a few years back, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, there was a bit of a tirade after Boz could take no more heckling from the audience in insistent on hearing his big disco hit from the 70s “Lido Shuffle.” One can only imagine this jazz inspired talented singer and musician having to put up with the bad manners of those whose memories of prowling the disco floor was the only connection they had to his wonderful music. A few days later, he appeared at the Las Vegas House of Blues, apparently still seething from the previous concert in Atlantic City. As he and his band came out, and took up their instruments, without hesitation they played “Lido Shuffle” apparently to shut those people up who he anticipated would cause the same heckling at the previous concert. The audience however, was quite shocked at this, as the song is usually the last number played. He then began to play many of his current cuts that showed the sophistication of the cross-currents of jazz and the lifelong musical education that Mr. Scaggs gained from the roads of his life and the evolvement from the many years of performing. The audience, over the shock, then gave him the attention he deserved and he might have been a bit embarrassed by his over-reaction as he has always been a humble man, at least on stage.
This was not to be tonight, this was a night for celebration. The audience was primed and ready for the master of mellow to dig his heels in and as he always does builds, and builds, and builds his music to a fever pitch bringing the audience along on an emotional delightful ride that only Boz can deliver. He opened with “Lowdown” and then made his way to all his familiar hits stifling somewhat, the cries for “Lido Shuffle.” Unfortunately as my prime seats eight rows back gave me a full view and put me right into the band’s interplay, two younger girls directly behind me talked incessantly throughout the concert. It was obvious by their conversation that they were the band’s “little groupies” and had seen the show numerous times. They knew every word, every line, every song but they were so young there would have been no way for them to have been alive during the years they were popular. As Boz was using younger musicians (himself approaching 70), I can only assume the cute little girls were given complementary seats assigned for the band to use. I just wish they would’ve shut up and even after numerous people hollered at them to do so they didn’t.
One of the highlights of the evening was “Street Life” an old Crusaders song made popular in 1979, and it was brought to a extremely high-pitched level of excitement by the scatting of Ms. Monique, one of two very talented black backup vocalists, that filled every nuance and emotion of Mr. Scagg’s classic repertoire. His new young guitarist had it all down carefully reproducing every timbre of the past superlatively for each song. He took over many of the solos Boz himself would have played in the past and his execution was right on the money, as Boz looked over in a fatherly way smiling at him for each well-played solo. Of course, the highlight of the evening was “Love, Look What You’ve Done To Me.” There’s not much to say about this song other than it’s one of the most soulful, personal renditions of a man’s complete surrender in falling in love again. Shortly after the song ended, a young woman from the center of the crowd yelled “I love you Boz” as the many women in the audience buzzed about with the same emotion. Boz Scaggs is an American institution, one that won’t be around forever as we are all getting older and ultimately become more irrelevant to the generations of today.
And then of course the ultimate dance song for those who have spent their money just to hear Lido Shuffle began and a rush to the stage ensued. As a matter of fact, the first girl down there I was sure was the same girl who rushed the stage at the last Boz Scagg’s concert two years ago at the House of Blues and probably was. Suffice it to say that now everyone was loose, screaming, rocking and rolling, and having a jolly good time as it seemed Boz was as well, a good sign, one that seemed to me that he had made peace with his past and wasn’t going to let the popularity of his own making, interfere with the audience’s enjoyment of his art. After the song, they waved to the crowd and walked off the stage surprisingly, as the show had not even come in at 70 minutes. After a rousing from the crowd they returned on que and went into the classic “Somebody Loan Me A Dime” (I’ve got to call my same old used-to-be) and again Ms. Monique stole the show capturing the full essence of the blues and the pain that the title implies. The dynamics of this very simple blues song are the key that make it emotionally charged. Beginning with a basic blues riff the song ends up eventually with the guitar player flailing double time at the highest range of chords he can play on his guitar and the rest of the band leaving it all on the field. The crowd responded with a roar as Boz went into “Breakdown Straight Ahead,” and got everybody dancing.
This sweet sounding balladeer and rock ‘n roll artist has written some of the most romantic lyrics and combined them with a perfect timbre and chords to create songs that will last lifetimes. His art is of a high order his keys and changes far from typical, brand him with the unique silky smooth sound that will endure for the generations. As he took his bows, he thanked the audience for allowing him to be there on the stage for them. Yes, he was now at peace with his craft and his attitude was all positive and humble. It is hard for a great artist to be content with what they have done. The drive that makes them great, makes them want to do new and different things. He has done more than enough for a lifetime. I hope his songs will never end. Boz, look what you’ve done to me.