There I was, coffee in hand, just beginning to start my channel surfing on
the sunny, summer, Saturday morning of August, 7, 2004, when I happened to
stumble across Boz Scaggs‘ performance on the Today Show, as part of their "concert on the plaza" series. I had not even realized that Boz was still performing these days, and was quite surprised at how great he looked, and, most importantly, how great he still sounded – nearly 30 years past his prime. This performance and others were primarily undertaken to promote his just released Greatest Hits Live DVD and CD sets. I now, of course, had to run out and buy the DVD.
Greatest Hits Live was taped live at the Great American Music
Hall in San Francisco, on 27 August 2003, and was captured by seven cameras in high definition video. This intimate venue was the ideal place to see a Boz Scaggs concert, as the hall is stunningly beautiful, the small crowd is right on top of the band, and the acoustics are fantastic. After keeping a rather low
profile throughout the ’80s, following his heyday in the ’70s, Scaggs became increasingly active throughout the ’90s and on into this decade. This show covers a wide range of his career, going all the way back to his self titled debut album from 1969, with "Loan Me a Dime", all the way up to his 2001 Dig album, with "I Just Go".
The concert begins strongly with an energized version of "Lowdown", that features some fine, funky bass work by Matt Bissonette, who seems to be playing with just about everybody these days, and an exceptional guitar solo by Drew Zingg. The ballad "Slow Dancer" follows, which shows off the beautiful vocal talents of background singers Ms. Mone’t and Barbara Wilson. They play an integral role on almost every song
this night. Another ballad follows, and then we are treated to the bluesy, pop
sounds of Earl King’s "It All Went Down The Drain". You would almost swear you were listening to a Robert Cray performance during this song. The delicate Silk Degrees ballad "Harbor Lights" is performed next and things continue in this fashion – ballad, r&b song, ballad, blues song, etc – for the rest of the show. My one personal critique of this performance is that most of the songs are played very faithfully to the original versions, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I enjoy seeing this style of music cranked up an extra notch when played live, such as maybe adding a touch more distortion to the guitars, and improvising a little more on the instrumental passages. Compare Toto‘s live performances versus their studio stuff, to see what I mean. "Breakdown Dead Ahead" and "Lido Shuffle", two of Scaggs‘
more rockin’, upbeat songs, for instance, both sounded a little tepid, when they
should have brought the house down.
Speaking of Toto, David Paich, who co-wrote many of Boz Scaggs best songs, handles the audio production of this DVD, and does an absolutely fantastic job. This is truly one of the best sounding concert DVDs of its kind. The video quality was even better. Shot in Hi Definition and presented in widescreen, it simply doesn’t get any better than this. The camera work only enhanced the viewing experience by focusing mostly on slow, lingering, sweeping shots of all the musicians, from various angles that placed you right into every different seat in the house. The stage lighting was minimal, consisting mainly of white and blue spotlights, and the theater lights remained dimly lit for the entire show. This helped to created the perfect mood and atmosphere for this intimate setting and wonderful performance.
The best part of the show was when Boz and the band came back out for the encore and led things off with the big band sounds of "Runnin’ Blue". This song had Scaggs and Zingg trading licks back and forth on these huge hollow-body electrics, and featured short solo segments by each of the band members. They finally opened up and cut loose.
"Loan Me A Dime", a slow blues jam from Scaggs‘ 1969 debut solo album, which originally featured Duane Allman on guitar, passionately kept the jam going. Scaggs definitely put together a fantastic band that was more than able to do his legendary songs justice. The evening ended appropriately with Scaggs‘ most famous ballad, the gorgeous "We’re All Alone", which left the crowd on their feet begging for more.
This is truly a remarkably produced concert DVD, with everything you should expect, and more, including Hi Definition video, a 16×9 widescreen presentation, Dolby Digital stereo and 5.1 surround sound, DTS surround, and even SRS Circle Surround, which allows a 5.1 surround mix to be stored or transferred over a two-channel track. The special features included a short "Backstage With Boz" segment that showed backstage footage of this show, as well as from his But Beautiful tour. The sound was very poor on this segment and the level was often so low that you could not hear what was being said. Also included is a photo gallery, and a performance of "Harbor Lights" from the But Beautiful tour, which featured a completely different band than what played on Greatest Hits show.
At sixty years of age, Boz Scaggs is convincingly performing like he is still in his prime. That smooth, soulful, unique voice of his still sounds marvelous, and his songs are still inspiring.
Heart of Mine
It All Went Down the Drain
Ask Me ‘Bout Nothin’ but the Blues
Breakdown Dead Ahead
Look What You’ve Done To Me
I Just Go
Loan Me a Dime
We’re All Alone
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