Boz Scaggs: Greatest Hits Live Review
There’s a whiff of opportunism to greatest hits concerts. They work well under festival circumstances where a proportion of the audience will not be familiar with the nuances of an artist’s back catalogue. But for a devoted fan base there's an element of simply going for through the motions, playing the same old same old, and of course, money isn’t too far away. After all, these are the songs which have brought the performer their success, so why not cynically wheel them out again and make a little bit more?
Boz Scaggs : Greatest Hits Live does exactly this, just under two hours of “his most recognised work” (to quote the sleeve blurb) as backed by a seven piece band. They’re a tight unit, perfectly proficient and ultimately sterile. They don’t sound like a band who are particularly enjoying themselves, rather one who have been rehearsed to death, so much so that they never once break a sweat. Each track is note perfect to such a degree that you may as well go and by the original record, were it not for the fact that each number is rendered indulgent with a minimum track length of rarely less than five minutes.
Yet the musicians aren’t really at fault here - they are, after all, just session players - it’s the material that they’re working with that provides the problems. Scaggs specialises in a brand of MOR that is jazz-tinged and blues-inflected. But the MOR aspect constantly wins out, rendering the emotion that should be integral to either influence utterly benign. Maybe there is a depth to his parade of love songs, but this performance simply doesn’t demonstrate any. Much like the backing band, he’s got each number down to a tee (this is all about craftsmanship as opposed to art), giving the impression that he is, as the ‘greatest hits’ tag confirms, simply providing the audience with what they want. Yet surely if he had given greater consideration to what he was performing by selecting the songs that said the most to him rather than the record buying public, or the ones that currently got him excited, he would be compelled to a more involving, more live gig, thereby rewarding the concert goers to a far greater degree.
Indeed, from the various shots of the audience (the concert is perfectly adequately filmed on high definition favouring an unobtrusive, slowly gliding approach) their reaction rarely breaks beyond a polite smile and brief, muted applause. Almost predominately white, and undoubtedly middle class, such is their lack of any true delight that even when they do finally get on the feet - about a hour in - all they can muster is gentle swaying. According to the sleeve this concert was a homecoming gig performed at the Great American Music Hall in Scagg’s hometown of San Francisco, but only by reading this would you know; the in-between song banter is inauspicious and sounds as though it’s been rattled off numerous times before, the music likewise.
Recorded in 2003, the concert looks and sounds fine on disc. The high definition video looks as good as can be expected, i.e. without the sheen that 35mm would have provided, and is presented anamorphically at a ratio of 1.78:1. As is typical with music releases the choice of sound options extends to DD2.0, DD5.1 and DTS. Each is crisp and clear, though the latter is undoubtedly the most favourable as it goes some way to beefing up Scagg’s sound.
A handful of extras are also provided, though nothing of particular note. An additional version of the song Harbour Lights is provided, this one taken from the ‘But Beautiful’ tour with a smaller different band, though the overall effect is the same as that which appears in the main concert,. Also present is a brief photo gallery of colour and black and white stills, plus a 15 minutes featurette entitled ‘Backstage With Boz’. This piece is a montage of pre-gig material taking us through the soundcheck, eavesdropping on inaudible banter between the various band members and taking vox pops from expectant audience members as they queue outside the venue. It’s an agreeable piece and fairly diverting, but as with everything else ultimately inconsequential.
As with the main feature none of the extras come with subtitles.
2. Slow Dancer
3. Heart Of Mine
4. It All Went Down The Drain
5. Harbour Lights
6. Jo Jo
7. Ask Me 'Bout Nothin'
8. But The Blues
9. Breakdown Dead Ahead
10. Look What You've Done To Me
11. I Just Go
13. Miss Sun
14. Lido Shuffle
15. Runnin' Blues
16. Loan Me A Dime
17. We're All Alone