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Issue 1084

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Boz Scaggs + Michael McDonald: Pacific Amphitheater, Orange County Fair, Los Angeles 6/817

Boz Scaggs + Michael McDonald: Pacific Amphitheater, Orange County, LA @bluesandsoul.com
Boz Scaggs + Michael McDonald: Pacific Amphitheater, Orange County, LA @bluesandsoul.com Michael McDonald: Pacific Amphitheater, Orange County, LA @bluesandsoul.com Boz Scaggs: Pacific Amphitheater, Orange County, LA @bluesandsoul.com Michael McDonald: Pacific Amphitheater, Orange County, LA @bluesandsoul.com

Orange County Fair in Los Angeles is much like a UK county fair but bigger, with the normal animal/craft stalls, food in abundance and an 8,000-seat open air amphitheatre.

In a classy 13-track,100-minute set Boz Scaggs, the veteran blues stalwart, wowed the crowd with a consummate performance containing five tracks from his career-defining 1976 album “Silk Degrees”. With the stellar heights of that album, reaching #2 on the Billboard charts, it is surprising that he has not since had more commercial success.

Scaggs mixed it up with much of his original material including a superb rendition of “Georgia”, his song, not the Hoagy Carmichael standard, and interesting covers including Fats Domino’s “I’m A Fool To Care” and his friend Willy de Ville’s “Cadillac Walk”. There was a cracking version of “Drowning In The Sea of Love” from Donald Fagen’s “New York Rock And Soul Review”, in which Scaggs performed.

Towards the end of the set 90% of the crowd were on their feet for “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle”, the former seemingly better than the album version.

Backed by a tight five-strong band of guitar, bass, drums, organ/piano and keys/sax, Scaggs saved the best until his encore of “What Can I Say” and “Somebody Loan Me A Dime” which has become a modern blues classic.

During the interval there was an expectant buzz for the impending appearance of Michael McDonald, regarded as one of the best ever soul singers. Along with an impressive solo career he has had collaborative success, most notably with the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan. But I wondered, does he still have that voice?

Also with a 13-track,100-minute set and a five piece backing band, augmented with two female vocalists, one being his wife Amy Holland, McDonald kicked off with two classics. First a rousing version of his collaboration with James Ingram of “Ya Mo B There” and then “I Keep Forgetting”. Any lingering doubts about the state of this veteran’s voice were immediately dispelled. He still possesses that awesome power which is even more apparent in a concert situation.

Then McDonald indulged himself with several tracks from his forthcoming new album. The new material, although very classy and beautifully performed, was a little more down-tempo and not what the majority of the Los Angeles crowd had come to hear. This is the endless performer’s dilemma of what you want to play and what the audience wants you to play. Two of these new tracks that stood out were “Find It In Your Heart” and “Beautiful Child” which he began to write twenty years ago.

Known for being a vocalist, McDonald played half the set on guitar and half on piano, the surprise for this reviewer being McDonald’s prowess on the keyboards.

Back to familiar territory with “Sweet Freedom” and then a sensational couple of tracks from his Doobie Brother’s days, first an excellent piano intro to “Minute By Minute” and then the highlight of the set, a sublime version of “What A Fool Believes” which has to be one of the greatest songs ever written and one of the strongest vocal performances of all time.

McDonald returned for an encore of contrasting tempos and styles, first the vocal-heavy duet “On My Own” and secondly the rousing Doobie’s “Takin’ It To The Streets” with another superb piano intro. The crowd were left stunned and happy, the classics more than compensating for the tranche of unfamiliar material midway through the set. He’s still got it and Scaggs never lost it.
Words CHAZ BROOKS

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