Boz Scaggs, David Jacobs-Strain
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
A fairly large crowd of middle-aged Boz fans filled the PAC on Sunday evening — most of whom showed up in time to catch unannounced opener David Jacobs-Strain, a young blues/roots singer and slide guitarist from the Oregon college town of Eugene. Jacobs-Strain. Clad in flannel, jeans, and a ballcap, Jacobs-Strain strolled out to the stagefront and quipped, “yep, this is the nicest bar I’ve ever played.”
Delivering a mix of vintage Mississippi Delta blues (including some classic Robert Johnson) and originals, his witty set charmed and entertained. Handling a crisply toned acoustic 12-string, he embellished his slide work and finger-picking with harmonics, neck bends, and percussive thumps. At his best, his technique resembled the tumbling classical/folk stylings of Leo Kottke and the hard-strumming groovin’ of Richie Havens. Highlights included a very funny story and tune about blues great Bobby Rush “in a sequined velour suit” at a blues festival, and a riffy, set-closing guitar duet with Drew Zingg (of Scaggs’ band).
Backed by a top-notch quintet and a sassy backing vocalist nicknamed Miss Monet, Scaggs kicked of his velvety-smooth set with the funky mid-tempo groover “JoJo,” one of the numerous fan faves of the set. The first line of the song (“Look out behind you, JoJo’s got his gun/He wouldn’t mean to, but you know he likes his fun”) was spot-on and immediately dispelled any notion that Scaggs’ voice might have diminished over the years. His range was as wide as ever. His sleepy vibrato and stark falsetto were intact. His soulful inflections were still sincere.
Scaggs looked cool and confident, showing a little bit of age, but playing it cool and smooth. He switched between electric and acoustic guitars during the set, trading a few licks with Zingg, and soloing from time to time. His chops were pretty hot.
There was a New Orleans vibe to much of the show, especially during spirited renditions of Allen Toussaint’s “Hercules” and Fats Domino’s boogie-woogie “Sick and Tired.” Scaggs crooned on the slow-rolling on the newer tune “Desire,” and he belted it out on his classic rocker “Some Change.” Fans jumped to their feet and danced to the big hits. Powered by a slap-bass lick and a disco drum beat, “Dirty Lowdown” came first (with a bit of cheesy synth flute). “Lido Shuffle” and “Breakdown Dead Ahead” came later. They all sounded stronger and more refined than this reviewer expected.