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Boz Scaggs Goes for Broke at UCLA: Concert Review

Boz Scaggs - H 2013
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The Bottom Line

The silky singer and guitarist digs deep into the blues from his new album "Memphis," then lets it rip.

Venue

Royce Hall
Los Angeles
(Wednesday, Sept. 11)

In a collegiate setting on a hilltop on the campus of UCLA, Boz Scaggs started out as the quiet, soulful craftsman. But soon he went all out, heading for the borderline and going for broke, which made for a satisfying conclusion to an evening with one of the masters of American music.

Back on the road after a six-week layoff for the first of 10 California shows in a 23-day span, Scaggs -- in support of his new album Memphis on Savoy label 429 Records -- kept the less-than-capacity crowd content through an hour and 50 minutes, including three encores. (Take that, early exiters!).

Though sometimes obscured by the mix at the venerable Royce Hall, Scaggs' smooth, soothing voice remained capable of hitting the high notes, the frontman's bluesy guitar riffs precise but restrained for most of the evening.

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With producer Steve Jordan, Scaggs recorded his first CD in five years at the legendary, analog-loving Royal Studio in Memphis, where the late Willie Mitchell recorded the Rev. Al Green in his heyday. Scaggs booked the place for 10 days and finished laying down the tracks -- just about all covers -- in three. 

At UCLA, Scaggs, 69, showcased tracks from the album early on -- "Dry Spell," with talk of dust on his shoes and a need to have his crankcase drained; the spunky "Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl," a hit in 1964 for one-hit wonder Patty & the Emblems; a cover of "Rainy Night in Georgia," where he deepened his voice for resonance; the gentle ballad "Corrina, Corrina," first recorded in 1928; and the Hammond-organ rich "Gone Baby Gone." 

A perfect mix for a set in a San Francisco coffee house, these efforts were complemented when Scaggs dusted off his classy originals "Runnin' Blue" and "Sierra," the latter of which he dedicated to a friend who "disappeared into thin air. But he's fine."

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The multiplatinum singer-songwriter and his five-piece band kicked things up with "Georgia" from the blue-eyed soul classic Silk Degrees from 1976. As he sang "moonlight through the pines," it resonated on this cool night spent on the Westside. 

The humble artist then stepped aside for energetic backup singer Ms. Mone’t, who has appeared with Scaggs before and here performed "I Thank You/Thank You for Lettin' Me Be Myself (Again)." That got the people off their butts, and soon they would be swaying.

Scaggs kept everyone satisfied with the favorites "Lowdown," "What Can I Say?," "Lido Shuffle," "Breakdown Dead Ahead" and "Cadillac Walk," then sent what was left of the audience home with a blistering rendition of Fenton Robinson's "Loan Me a Dime." Duane Allman played lead on the album track from Scaggs' second album back in 1969, and here the native Texan and his mates really cranked it up in tribute.

Set List:

Runnin' Blue
Dry Spell
Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl
Sierra
Rainy Night in Georgia
Corrina, Corrina
Gone Baby Gone
Georgia
Miss Sun
I Thank You/Thank You for Lettin' Me Be Myself (Again)
Lowdown
Lido Shuffle
What Can I Say?
Cadillac Walk
Breakdown Dead Ahead
Loan Me a Dime

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