“From 8-Track Tapes to Today — He’s Still Great!” Boz Scaggs LIVE! at The State Theatre
Boz Scaggs, the singer/songwriter/guitarist who, in 1976, had the entire musical world groovin’ to his ubiquitous album, Silk Degrees, recently made a tour stop in New Jersey. Here in the Garden State, Scaggs presented an evening of ultra-cool blue-eyed soul at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ, on Saturday, July 15, 2017.
Inside the historic auditorium, the lights dim to whoops, hollers, and applause from the packed house. The crowd cheers as the band members — Eric Crystal on saxophones and keyboards, Michael Miller on guitar, Michael Logan on piano and organ, David Northrup on drums, and Rich Patterson on bass — make their way onto the stage.
The spotlight shines on Scaggs who welcomes the Jersey crowd with a warm “Good evening!” before he and the band launch into their opening number, Silk Degree’s “It’s Over.”
The bouncy tune gets audience members’ toes tapping — the crowd immediately taking notice of the band’s crystal clear sound courtesy of a talented group of musicians, expert sound engineering, and the State Theatre’s top-notch amplification and speaker system.
Following avid applause, Scaggs acknowledges, “It’s great to be back in your neck of the woods! We’re at the end of a six-week tour, so we’re going to play things we haven’t played in a while — some things you’ll recognize from CDs, radio, and 8-tracks.”
As the audience chuckles, Scaggs adds, “I wrote this next one with David Foster and had a bit of a rhythm and blues hit with it.”
At this point, Scaggs and the band break out into Boz’s 1980 Top 20 smash, “JoJo.” The crowd cheers as soon as they hear the electric guitar riff and opening keyboard chords. The easy groove of the tune envelopes the audience with its feel-good vibe, and heads bounce and fans cheer for a cool sax solo by Eric Crystal.
Introducing “an old Joe Simon song,” Scaggs performs his 1991 cover version of Simon’s “Drowning in the Sea of Love.” Crooning, “I’ve been down one time/And I’ve been down two times/But right now I’m drowning in the sea of love,” the crowd cheers for Boz’s rockin’ blues performance.
Telling the audience, “The next song is the title song from an album” — apparently referring to politics — Scaggs explains, “It’s a play off the word ‘change’ that happens every four years; each time, we change it a little, but we got a surprise this time.”
Here, Scaggs performs 1994’s “Some Change,” the shuffle beat getting the audience tapping along as Scaggs sings, “Some change comes down for the better/You feel it move/Then some come around like the weather/You take that in, too/But like some change in your pocket/Sometimes it seems to be too little too late.”
Switching over to acoustic guitar, Scaggs reveals, “This next song was written by a friend, Jack “Applejack” Walrath. I moved to San Francisco’s Mission District, and he wrote this song about the neighborhood and all of its mysterious shadows.”
Here, Boz performs a compelling rendition of “Last Tango on 16th Street,” a tune which features a gorgeous full piano introduction, a Latin beat, and a story which captures the feel and culture of a late night stroll in a picturesque community which comes to life through the song’s music and lyrics.
Following cheers and applause, Scaggs states, “I haven’t played this next song for many years. It’s from a 2001 album called Dig that didn’t do very well,” going on to add, “Sept. 11, 2001 was the day it came out, so a lot of things got scattered that day.”
As red, purple, and blue lights softly glow overhead, Scaggs and the band perform “Thanks to You.” The unusual feel of the song’s meter, the ride of drummer David Northrup’s cymbal shuffling along, and the boom of Rich Patterson’s bass slowly walks along as he sings backup to a story which says, “Thanks to you/I’ve got a reason to get out of bed.”
The crowd loves the sweet slow vibe of this lesser-known Boz Scaggs song.
Next up, however, is another number from Silk Degrees. Opening with a swirling keyboard intro, the audience cheers when they recognize the tune as it morphs into the steady rhythm of Boz’s romantic “Harbor Lights.” On this song, Eric Crystal’s soprano saxophone solo wails as the mood of the piece illuminates the night like harbor lights.
Switching guitars, Scaggs performs another Silk Degrees cut, “Georgia.” The beating of Northrup’s sticks causes the audience to clap as they start to dance in their seats. Others’ heads move gently as they sing along, hands clapping, toes tapping, to this catchy tune, and Scaggs’ falsetto voice — never sounding better — rings out on the exciting chorus, “Georgia/We will be together dear/If they ever let me out of here.”
Stating, “We’re gonna play a Chuck Berry song to remember him, “Scaggs acknowledges, “I think he was the greatest.” Michael Logan’s boogie-woogie piano rocks while Eric Crystal’s tenor sax rolls and Rich Patterson’s bass shimmies along in easy stride on Berry’s 1960 classic rocker, “Never Can Tell.”
Following whistles and cheers, the keyboard begins an introduction to a song which everyone recognizes. On this tune from the 1980 film, Urban Cowboy, the audience feels every nuance as Scaggs serenades the crowd with “Look What You’ve Done to Me.” At the end, they reward him with a well-deserved standing ovation.
Moving on to his infectious 1976 smash, “Lowdown,” the song constantly builds and rises while always remaining grounded courtesy of the band’s funky bass, an organ pad, the sound of a synthesized flute, and a pulsating disco beat — not to mention Boz’s irresistible blue-eyed soul vocal!
And if “Lowdown” is not enough of a hit for this crowd, the audience really starts to go crazy when Scaggs and the boys break out into Boz’s 1976 “can’t-stop-yourself-from-dancing” smash, “Lido Shuffle.” The crowd shuffles in their seats with their arms in the air as Eric Crystal’s and Michael Logan’s dueling keyboards swirl to the beat before everyone happily joins in singing on the tune’s famous “Lido/Woah-oh-oh-oh” chorus.
Colors flash on the curtain as the crowd comes to their feet!
Boz takes a bow before he and the musicians exit the stage. Several moments later, the lights dim again to let the cheering crowd know they will soon return.
To more cheering, Scaggs and the band retake the stage for an encore of Silk Degrees’ “What Can I Say.”
A breezy dance tune featuring an Eric Crystal tenor sax solo, Boz’s tight rhythm section punctuates his lead vocal as audience members continue to dance in their seats.
The crowd yells as the organ swirls and cries out its mournful introduction to Scaggs’ final number of the evening, the bluesy “Somebody Loan Me a Dime.”
On this scorcher, Scaggs plays a tasty guitar solo, fingers caressing the fingerboard and strings while his band deftly supports him.
Cheers and applause follow as do a bluesy keyboard solo by Michael Logan, a second top-flight guitar solo by Michael Miller, and a David Northrup drum solo, before Boz and the band finish up with a bang to yet another standing ovation.
“Thank you for coming!” exclaims Boz, as Northrup tosses a drum stick into the standing crowd.
As we exit the State Theatre auditorium, we chat with several members of the audience who tell us about their experiences listening to Boz Scaggs and his talented band tonight.
States Mike, a musician from East Brunswick, “They were great! The bass player’s sound was great. Boz is 73 years old and he still sounds like he did in the 1970s. When I was in high school, I loved to play his music. In fact, ‘JoJo’ was one of my favorites, and it still is!”
Jyl from East Brunswick agrees, adding, “I loved all the songs, and I especially liked the woodwind player.”
Although Marc from Woodbridge expresses disappointment that Boz “didn’t play all of his hits,” he nevertheless acknowledges, “his voice is amazing, and he still sounds incredible!”
Tess from Basking Ridge comments, “It was a fantastic show! The band was very tight — just phenomenal. They are really talented musicians. I was really impressed — Boz hit everything — and he especially killed it on ‘Loan Me a Dime.’”
Going on to reveal, “I’m a fan because I’m the youngest of nine kids,” Tess goes on to say, “I grew up listening to Boz because my brothers were fans. In fact, I already called my brothers and told them all about this concert!”
Tanya from Allentown exclaims, “Boz Scaggs has still got it. He’s above and beyond anything they can do electronically today to enhance singers’ voices. He’s just “IT’ — he’s so good we were standing the whole time!”
Tanya’s friend, Denise from Allentown, agrees and adds, “He’s awesome — just like he was back in the day! When you’ve lived this music, you feel like you get to go back in time whenever you hear it.”
And, lastly, Brian from Heightstown agrees with both Tanya and Denise when he heartily concludes, “From 8-track tapes to today — he’s still great!”
For more on Boz Scaggs, please go to bozscaggs.com. For more on upcoming concerts at New Brunswick’s State Theatre — including Lyle Lovett and his Large Band on Aug. 10, Neil Sedaka on Aug. 11, and Buddy Guy on Aug. 17 — please click on statetheatrenj.org