Review: Scaggs thrills fans at Blaisdell Concert Hall

Nov. 16, 2013 | 0 Comments
Boz Scaggs. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Boz Scaggs performs at the Blaisdell Concert Hall in 2012. (Star-Advertiser File)

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

“Harbor Lights” wasn’t on the set list — the song was much bigger here back in 1976 than it was nationally — but a backstage request from “Uncle Tom” Moffatt got it added to the program as Grammy Award-winner Boz Scaggs, working with five excellent musicians and a charismatic guest, entertained a very appreciative crowd for more than 90 minutes on Friday, Nov. 15, at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Scaggs and his musicians got a warm welcome from the moment they stepped on stage, but the cheers and applause that greeted “Harbor Lights” made it clear Honolulu was thrilled to hear it. The cheers and applause started big time when Scaggs and company hit the first notes of the soft-rock classic, and, pro that he is, Scaggs stretched out and took his time with it.

The big hits came later. They were audience favorites as well. “Low Down,” Scaggs’ career-best chart hit, was greeted with enthusiastic applause. “Lido Shuffle,” his irresistible and intriguing upbeat tale of a guy who “made a stop just long enough to grab a handle off the top,” got the crowd up and dancing and clapping as well.

“Rainy Night in Georgia,” the lead hit off his current album, “Memphis,” displayed Scaggs’ finesse as a song stylist and interpreter of other writers’ work. It’s been 43 years since Brook Benton recorded the original hit version of the song, and Scaggs has certainly put his own stamp on it in 2013 — on “Memphis” earlier this year and in the concert hall last night. Two other songs from the new album — “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl” and “Dry Spell” — also gave Honolulu a taste of Scaggs’ most recent studio work.

With pop chart material going back to 1971, there was no way Scaggs could have played everything last night that every individual wanted to hear, but he certainly satisfied many fans with the songs he did choose. All it took was a few notes of “Georgia,” a 1976 album track, in the main set, and “What Can I Say” in the first encore, for many in the audience to silently say, “Thanks, Boz, for including this in the set.”

The applause that welcomes “Miss Sun,” one of his later hits, showed it, too, was a song many fans had been waiting for. Scaggs sang it is a duet with his long-time backing vocalist, Ms. Mone’t, and they did a fine job with it.

Ms. Mone’t just about tore the roof off the place with her showcase number, a blues/rock reworking of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” blended with Sam & Dave’s 1968 hit, “I Thank You.” The songs fit together seamlessly, both as a musical arrangement and in terms of their shared theme. With Scaggs and his musicians now working as her backing band, Ms. Mone’t had the Honolulu audience responding to her call-and-response comments as if the concert hall was church on a Sunday morning. Can that woman rock the house? Believe it!

Hits aside, Scaggs is a masterful guitarist and got excellent support from his musicians throughout the evening. The capper came in the first encore, when Scaggs and guitarist Drew Zingg took turns as soloists on powerful electric blues arrangement of “Loan Me A Dime.” Scaggs dedicated it to the late Bobby “Blue” Bland, one of America’s all-time great blues singers and one of his favorite singers, who died in June. It was a heartfelt tribute, beautifully played, and a powerful highlight number in a great performance.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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