Similar to the announcement at a Dylan show, there were signs taped to the Will Call window, type-written in Helvetica, stating ‘No Photography Will Be Allowed For Tonight’s Performance’ recalling the message- minus the tone, of Dylan’s sometimes handwritten, oft misspelled: ‘ABSOLUTELY NO CAMERAS ALOWED.’
But this is not a comparative essay about Dylan; this is about two blue-eyed soul singers- Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, who have been touring together this summer, sharing the burden of carrying the ‘headlining’ title by alternating who opens and closes the show each night.
Michael McDonald must have lost the coin toss. Because on this rainy night- exactly the kind that Eddie Rabbit sang about- he took to the stage first. He sat center stage, squarely behind his Yamaha Motif XF8 keyboard. He was not consumed by it- he definitely showed it who was Boss, pounding the keys with such vigor that it took on the persona of someone getting a royal beatdown.
McDonald’s gruff, yet sky lark of a voice made its appearance, but was showing migratory tendencies for most of tonight’s performance. The songbird population has seen a steady decline throughout the United States; this may be one more statistic. The songs, a mix of crowd pleasers and Michael’s favorites, were sweet, accompanied by the thunderous yet adept sounds dancing off the keyboard.
When it was Scaggs turn to shine under the spotlight- the storyteller approached the microphone irresolutely, guitar in hand, and settled in for the night. His voice was true to its former self, supported by the smooth operator himself using solid, even tones. Scaggs performance gained momentum with each word he uttered.
The Motown and Stax references were in check tonight, as both singers were severely influenced by the respective labels. In a 2008 Billboard interview regarding his [mostly cover] album Soul Speak, McDonald stated ‘I just thought all these records had…some element about them that speaks to your inner being, your soul. Typically they’re those kinds of records you loved before you even knew what the words said. You just want to hear them over and over again.” Let’s take his quote and flip it on him, and say the same would hold true of his albums.
Both McDonald and Scaggs fit into the blue-eyed soul genre, but that would be exercising wanton disregard in respect to their talent to categorize their music only as such. Although Michael has an inclination towards soft rock, and Boz, jazz fusion, each used similar elements to create their musical styles.
References to rhythm and blues is wildly apparent on both singers’ rosters. Each nestles comfortably into the urban scene, blending Motown inspired ballads with that breezy California sound.
Both modernized soul for the seventies and infused in it a pop stance which received substantial play on the airwaves. Lyrically speaking, both can whisper sweet nothings while telling the listener the raw story. You won’t catch them ridin’ dirty- they wrap their rough edges up in a nice box, tied with a bow.
From singing on street corners, [Scaggs] to taking it to the streets- [McDonald] their careers have followed a similar road, with paths crossing once in a blue moon: Scaggs, on the cusp of Steve Miller, and McDonald singing back-up vocals and playing keys with both Steely Dan and The Doobies, although he played a more integral role with the latter. Each breaking away at some point, embarking on successful solo careers.
Eventually Scaggs and McDonald would perform together onstage, when, in 1991, they joined Donald Fagen and guests on Fagen’s musical brainchild ‘Rock & Soul Revue.’ In 2010, the trio was morphed into ‘The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue.’ Now Fagen is currently touring with his steely partner in crime, Walter Becker. Currently, the remaining two are sharing the bill simply as themselves: Michael McDonald & Boz Scaggs.
Both Scaggs and McDonald inadvertently acquired a harder edge when Snoop and Warren G each showcased a softer side of their hardcore tales. Warren G heavily sampled McDonald’s ‘Keep Forgettin’ [Every Time You’re Near’] and turned it into the much lauded ‘Regulate.’ Snoop hijacked Scaggs’ ‘Lowdown’ as inspiration for ‘Wonder What It Do.’ As deeply as Scaggs and McDonald had been influenced by Motown, now gangsta rap is returning the favor. Plus, it’s not a far stretch- everyone knows west coast rap is soft.
Who made who? Each genre, [excluding the obvious Motown elements borrowed by both] rap and blue-eyed soul- will defer [props] to the other. However, take note that in the Urban Dictionary, the term ‘Boz Scaggs’ is used as a synonym for cool, hip, and crunk.