A few thoughts on Boz Scaggs’ concert Tuesday night at the State Theatre in Minneapolis
1. Despite him making several Twin Cities appearances in recent years, his popularity seems unabated. The full house gave him at least three standing ovations for his generous 115-minute performance. There was no opening act.
2. Scaggs had an excellent band, featuring guitarist Mike Miller, saxophonist/keyboardist Eric Crystal and bassist Willie Weeks, who started his professional career in Minneapolis (with the Mystics and Gypsy) before playing with the likes of Donny Hathaway, George Harrison and Eric Clapton.
3. Scaggs, a 74-year-old Texan who first gained attention playing in the Steve Miller Blues Band, is clearly in a blues phase. He previewed material from his forthcoming blues album, “Out of the Blues,” (out July 27) but didn’t give it a hard sell. He gave short introductions to most songs, especially those from the new album such as Bobby Bland’s “The Feeling Is Gone,” a slow Texas blues. He gave props to Donald Fagen for the arrangement on the Joe Simon tune, “Drowning in the Sea of Love,” which sounded Steely Dan-ish. Scaggs also gave a shout-out to San Francisco songwriter Jack Walroth, who penned some of Tuesday’s selections including the dramatic “Last Tango on 16th Street” and the simmering “Radiator 110.”
4. Scaggs was in good voice, with an easy Texas drawl despite having lived in San Francisco since the late ‘60s. He summoned the passion on the ballads “Harbor Lights” and “Look What You’ve Done to Me” as well as on Fenton Robinson’s down-low blues “Somebody Loan Me a Dime.” But Scaggs lacked the sass to make a cover of “Cadillac Walk” (which he learned from Willie DeVille) rock with style.
5. Whether Scaggs was doing blues, ballads, pop, soul or his version of disco (the late '70s hits “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle”), it was clear that he’s a captain of yacht rock. Everything is pleasant and likable. The exceptions were a delightful Texas dance-hall treatment of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” and the killer “Somebody Loan Me a Dime,” a blues chestnut heard on Scaggs’ second solo album in 1968. On this 15-minute reading of “Dime,” the band found a nasty groove, Scaggs’ voice sounded desperate, and Miller’s guitar soared and soared. Even though Scaggs’ own guitar solo tried to be ornery but was a little too sweet, this was one exciting number. Worth the price of admission even if you can’t call anybody for a dime any more.