From enduring hits such as “Lido Shuffle” and “JoJo,” Boz Scaggs made the most of his amphitheater debut, with guitarist-singer Robert Cray and singer-songwriter Jeff LeBlanc also on tap. Review, photos.
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A low-key crowd at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on Monday night grooved to the unmistakable sounds of Boz Scaggs, who transported audience members to the 1970s and ’80s with a variety of sonic moods.
The artist born William Royce Scaggs kicked things off with “What Can I Say,” a jazzy, improvisational journey, setting the innovative tone for what was to come.
“JoJo,” Scaggs’ 1980 Top 20 hit song about a pimp working on Broadway, followed in the jazz vein as crowd members bopped their heads in unison. The tune’s breezy style belied its gritty lyrics, but under a setting sun, with sangrias in hand, no one seemed too concerned about the words.
Maybe that was because Scaggs’ voice is so velvety, so singular, one gets lost in the music and the mood.
The 78-year-old said very little during the show, but he did set up “The Feeling is Gone,” a foray into the blues and a “tribute to a hero” of his, Bobby “Blue” Bland. That song moved fans from the jazz club to the juke-joint, complete with bluesy piano licks.
From the juke-joint, Scaggs moved to the marina with a swoony little yacht rock nugget called “Harbor Lights,” a ballad from his 1976, hit-studded album, “Silk Degrees.” His biggest hit, “Lowdown.” also came from that album, as was the relaxing “Georgia,” a crowd pleaser he doesn’t always sing, though he did on Monday night.
The sweet ballad “Look What You’ve Done to Me,” from the 1980 movie, “Urban Cowboy” (starring John Travolta) had some couples swaying under what was by then moonlight. (The Eagles actually sang the background vocals to this song when it originally came out.)
After all those melty moments, it was time for the “Lido Shuffle,” and fans (finally) got up and bounced around to the fun, driving shuffle beat.
Back in the day, you couldn’t roller skate to all of Boz Scaggs’ songs, but this one you absolutely could. It was a rollicking lollipop of a song and a great way to showcase his resilient voice and versatility. If Scaggs proved anything on Monday, it was that he can still sing just about anything, from blue-eyed soul to blues to jazz to ballads, even after five-plus decades of performing.
Five-time Grammy winner Robert Cray performed ahead of Scaggs, delivering an eloquent blend of blues, funk, soul and R&B, much to the delight of the crowd. At 69, Cray has released 20 albums and has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Wooing the audience with his sometimes silky, sometimes mournful tenor, Cray proved to be a powerful performer and a memorable guitarist. Highlights included the soulful “You Move Me,” “Time Makes Too” and the sensual yet zesty instrumental, “Hip Tight Onions.”
Next Up at Meijer Gardens: Tuesday Evening Music Club with Ralston Bowles & Friends at 7 p.m. tonight (Aug. 23). Meijer Gardens members have free admission; other visitors pay the regular entry fee for Meijer Gardens. Umphrey’s McGee plays a sold-out show at the amphitheater at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
PHOTO GALLERY: Boz Scaggs, Robert Cray, Jeff LeBlanc at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek