after getting this assign ment on Monday, I learned that Boz
Scaggs’ last couple of albums were of jazz standards, so that
was what I was expecting, and not too keenly. But this, his
first Albany appearance ever, turned out to be a greatest-hits
show, which meant:
Degrees, Scaggs’ 1974 masterpiece, in which he and the
future members of Toto took a mess of fern-bar lounge-band
affectations and made them somehow OK. Silk Degrees
is basically one big hit, the album you played when you had
a girl visitor you didn’t know very well—you knew she was
gonna like it, and despite its steady undercurrent of unctuousness,
well, you really liked it, too. You even listened to it when
there was nobody around.
Scaggs and a crack six-piece band (including the stellar guitarist
Drew Zingg) chugged through most of Silk Degrees and
the handful of hits from his other ’70s and ’80s albums with
style and grace, and a good measure of deep groove. Most songs
got a rise from the audience during the first bar, which was
often little more than a beat. Scaggs sang great, and nailed
the occasional guitar solo; people forget that he was an early
lead guitarist for the Steve Miller Band, and an ace player.
The sound was big and lush and delicious, with the keyboards
pumping out vintage synthesized waves and everything absolutely
in the right place. Talk about ear candy.
singer Monet nearly stole the show with a slightly over-the-top
blast of Stevie Wonder’s “Until You Come Back To Me,” but
the real meat of the matter arrived with the encore, an epic
version of “Lend Me A Dime,” a blues classic from Scaggs’
first solo album, originally recorded with Duane Allman at
Muscle Shoals. Scaggs dedicated the song to famed Muscle Shoals
keyboardist /arranger Barry Beckett, who died last week, and
then the band dug in for a 10-minute-plus orgy of electric
blues. It was jaw-dropping.
of jaw-dropping: Sean Rowe made a roomful of new fans with
a gripping 30-minute set. Rowe’s voice is every bit as soulful
as Scaggs’, and his delivery was dramatic and engaging. He
completely reimagined two iconic classics, Richard Thompson’s
“Vincent Black Lightning 1952” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on
a Wire,” and played a bunch of originals that trade on silence
as much as audacious bursts of sound. He commanded the undivided
attention of the packed house, and got a big and deserved
ovation at the end. Kudos to the local promoters who are putting
Rowe on these shows. He belongs on the big stage.
A Girl Party
Stone Event Center, Verona, June 22
Monday evening, No Doubt sure didn’t seem like a band that
hasn’t toured in five years, or released an album of new material
in eight years. Their high-energy hodgepodge of ska and punk,
with a soupçon of emo and a dash of indie, is held together
by a killer pop sensibility that hasn’t dulled a bit. The
gleaming white, ultra-mod stage set and state-of-the-art video
effects didn’t hurt either.
isn’t that big, and the intimacy seemed to astonish frontwoman
Gwen Stefani: “I can see the faces of every one of you. This
is kinda like theater!” The audience returned the enthusiasm
in kind, standing and/or dancing for the entire show—something
they mostly did not do for openers Paramore, much to that
easy to forget how many hits (and radio faves) No Doubt had.
For starters, they cranked out the manic “Spiderwebs,” the
dancetastic “Hella Good” and insidiously catchy “Underneath
has always made the most of her odd but powerful voice, with
an approach to phrasing that’s half Siouxie Sioux, half Dale
Bozzio. (She also showed off her physical prowess, dashing
off 10 pushups before “Just a Girl.”) Her singing was dead-on,
ranging from playfully seductive (“Hey Baby”) to edgy and
angry (“Excuse Me Mr.”) to tears-in-her-voice schmaltzy on
“Don’t Speak.” The band—bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom
Dumont, drummer Adrian Young and horn players Stephen Bradley
and Gabriel McNair—equaled her manic energy. They’re going
to make an album after the tour; it’s something to look forward
props to the Turning Stone audience; there were as many actual
lighters held aloft during “Don’t Speak” as glowing cell phones.
That’s old school.
as Stefani eschews No Doubt tunes in her solo gigs, none of
her recent hits were in this set. (It was as if the Harajuku
era never existed.) The shit was still bananas, though.
costume changes? Four: Three by Stefani, one by Young, who
donned a tutu for the encore.
not that Paramore weren’t popular before landing a couple
of songs on the Twilight soundtrack. They were. It’s
just that the legions of teenage girls around me, screaming
at top volume for “Twilight” (not the name of the soundtrack
hit, of course) probably wouldn’t have been so deafening without
this connection. The Tennessee pop-punkers play well enough,
and singer Hayley Williams has plenty of enthusiasm and can
sing. It’s just that too many of their songs were forgettable.
Hooks, kids—they’re called hooks. Also: Maybe Williams wouldn’t
have complained so much about people not dancing if the screaming
girls around me were closer to the stage.
to follow the simplest of driving directions led me to miss
most of Janelle Monae’s set. The one song I did catch was
a beguiling mix of rock and R&B. My loss.