I was a bit surprised as I walked in to Red Butte last Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. For a show that supposedly hadn’t sold out, Boz Scaggs appeared have to packed the house just about to bursting. Once I sat down and took a closer look though, I realized what actually had happened. Apparently, Boz Scaggs fans are also Red Butte veterans. Every group had their picnic setup maximized. Lawn chairs, coolers, and sun protection framed picnic blanket after picnic blanket. It wasn’t that Red Butte was full, rather, it was that everybody at Red Butte was professional-level serious about the picnic parts of Red Butte, spreading their gear far and wide across the grass. The crowd (largely white haired, and long in the tooth) busily chatted as the sun dove towards the horizon.
Jeff Blanc emerged from backstage alone, acoustic guitar strapped over his shoulder, and marched up to the microphone with purpose. Despite his vigor, few in the crowd seemed to pay him much attention. He started strumming bright, open chords, and pouring his soul into the microphone. LeBlanc’s music is exactly what you’d expect from a singer/songwriter. He sings ballads and love songs, thick with vocal “Oooohs” and simple chord progressions. But the Chardonay and hummus continued to hold-sway, most of the crowd spent the majority of his set clinking glasses and chatting as the sun went down. Then, out of nowhere, Jeff played a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” At that point, cheers went up, dancers stood up, and LeBlanc dazzled the distracted crowd of of its reverie. With some light comedy between the rest of his songs, Jeff finally roped the crowd’s attention in for the end of his brief, 25-minute set.
As the stage was set for The Boz, clearly, this was the moment everyone was waiting for. As soon as the house music died down the crowd was on their feet cheering. Boz Scaggs and his entourage strutted onto the stage like a pack of wolves. Within moments, Boz was singing “What Can I Say,” catcalls erupted from the crowd, and our journey through the Boz Scaggs discography commenced.
The mood was electric as two guitarists (including Boz), a drummer, a bassist, a percussionist, a keyboardist, and a saxophonist started jamming on classics like “JoJo” and “Sierra”. Before the show I was honestly a bit skeptical that Boz would have any voice left to sing with after his 50-plus years of gigging. As soon as the band started, though, it was clear he still had his A-game. His trademark nasal voice sounded as good as ever as he moaned over the lyrics to “It’s Over.” While the thick vocal choruses all sounded just like the Boz I know and love, the band kept things fresh with saxophone and guitar solos thrown into every song.
From the moment he started, the crowd was in awe and Scaggs delivered exactly what they wanted. Scaggs and his band still knows how to dial in a killer show, playing through about half the songs from his seminal album, Silk Degrees and giving us all an update on his style with tracks from his newest record, Out of the Blues. Boz ended the night with a double encore, which had the whole crowd on their feet. Before they could be convinced to triple down by the incessant cheering, the band jogged off stage, and sent us all home humming lines from “Lowdown” and “Georgia.”
Also the picnicking was excellent.
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