I suppose when a seasoned star like Boz Scaggs books a tour venue he's undoubtedly unfamiliar with every place he ends up playing in. He just has to make do with wherever his booking agent puts him (usually in grand, old, renovated movie theaters). However, the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall in Huntsville, Alabama, where I saw Scaggs this week, is not the ideal house for a performer like Scaggs. It is a big, hollow barn of a place, built for full-blown symphony orchestras, where less sonic sounds ordinarily bounce around rudely as if trying to escape a giant tin can. That given, the first vibrant notes from Scaggs's six-piece band were surprisingly warm and reassuring, a comforting introduction to what lay head.
This welcome accomplishment was due in part to Scaggs's own professional sound system and an expert engineer, but just as much to a combo of first-rate musicians (shown above).
Often the top-line musicians like to stay close to home, away from the rigors of the road, and so are reserved for the studio, but Scaggs's road band can vie with any Class A session players. They were tight, well-rehearsed, yet still full of rock 'n' roll energy and improvisational fervor.
The lighting of the show was provided by more proficient Scaggs's technicians who provided a seamless warm and pleasing compliment to the music. Not too much and not too little. The spotlighters did miss a couple of cues, when, for instance, the keyboard player, surrounded by three instruments--a B-3 organ, an electric piano, and a synthesizer--was left in semi-darkness throughout an extended solo. But that's a nit, since I suspect Scaggs and his band sometimes vary the setlists and arrangements without notice, leaving the lighting folks (and, as a result, some soloists) in the dark.
Of course, it's Boz Scaggs himself who the people, mostly older, come out, even on a weeknight, to see and hear. And I'm happy to report that the 77 year-old rocker/crooner/bluesman still has the chops after all these years (50+) and all these albums (20+), his voice maybe not as resonant as it once was, but nonetheless still skillful, multi-ranged, and, most importantly, satisfyingly soulful.
After starting the two-hour show with several blues selections from his "Come on Home" and "Out of the Blues" albums, including the Bobby "Blue" Bland classic, "I've Just Got to Forget You," Scaggs gradually turned up the heat, with a bunch of old rockers and ending, fittingly, with Chuck Berry"s "C'est La Vie (You Never Can Tell)" that left his fans dancing in the aisles. Ushers with defibrillators at the ready.