Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Boz Scaggs/James Hunter In Concert

I was at Town Hall last night (one of my favorite venues in NYC) for a great double bill: Boz Scaggs and James Hunter. The Hunter set was everything I expected: he was casual and funny, his US pickup band was very tight (the drummer is a definite talent) and the 40 minute set was terrific. The only problem was having to sit down -- Hunter definitely deserves to be heard in a smoky club with a beer in your hand and a gal on your arm, figuratively speaking of course. He even got about half the crowd to give him a standing ovation -- something that never happens for opening acts.

Scaggs was very good, too, getting enthusiastic roars from the decidedly middle-aged audience. I'm not too familiar with his music (I got on board with "But Beautiful," his marvelous collection of jazz standards). But the Steely Dan vibe (with more soul but still laid-back) was great. Everything was precise, from the backup singers to the horns to the humidifier that was strapped to the microphone, giving a smoky jazzy aura to the air around Boz.

The staging was unintentionally hilarious: all the black musicians were on the right and all the white musicians were on the left. My only complaint was the audience. A yahoo three rows behind me talked during the first song. When he started talking during the second song (very loudly) I turned around and stared until he looked over, my face a mixture of pleading, come-on-buddy, and anger. He shut up. Then his companion started talking. They would stand up and leave during the middle of a song (as did the celebs in attendance from the Strokes et al who walked in and out every 10 minutes or so, presumably to do some blow or just to be wildly annoying). The guys gabbed on, whooping over one song, insisting as another one began that "this is gonna be good" and then talking about what they were gonna do after the show. It's very, very hard to enjoy a concert in even an intimate venue like Town Hall when you've got schmucks like that around.

And then there were the people who tried to be "black." The two backup singers were black, one a plus-size gal who had most of the solos and dueted with Scaggs on one number to much delight. As she dug into a solo turn, a white guy behind me said out loud, "Sing it, sister!" as if he were a hat-proud Harlem mother at the Apollo on a Sunday night. If you're a white male, unless you're gay and speaking to another gay man, you should not say "Sing it, sister!" to anyone. Other people gave little "Uh-huhs" in a church-y manner as well. I noticed the same thing at the Candi Staton concert, white men lifting their hands in the air like they were at a revival and feeling it, or shouting out "Go, girl" in their best sistah attitude. What could they possibly be thinking and how insulting to the woman that is singing.

3 comments:

Soupercollider said...

"If you're a white male, unless you're gay and speaking to another gay man, you should not say "Sing it, sister!" to anyone."

Noted.

I am surprised to hear you were not familiar with Boz' material. So much of it was all over the radio in the 70's, both AM & FM. I was at the show and sat in my fave Town Hall seat- Row 1 of the Loge. It was me and my wife and 7 other people. It's a shame when a double bill that features a hot new artist opening for an artist that rarely tours, can't fill a small theater at 65 bucks a pop. The balcony was empty.

If there is finally going to be a backlash over rising ticket prices, where music fans are going to "just say no," this is not the place to start. How about the Rolling Stones at Giants Stadium for $450? Or Chris "Ice Capades" Isaak for $100? I'm still amazed that Boz doing a hits tour couldn't fill a NY theatre on a beautiful summer night. Know what I mean, sister?

NYCD Online said...

Hey, at least nobody said "Go on, girl!" I actually heard Mike Mills of R.E.M. say that at a show at Brownies a few years back, and I haven't been able to listen to one of their records since.

Michael in New York said...

Sooupercollider -- girl, you said it. I don't know quite how I missed him either though I certainly recognized songs like "Lowdown" when I was diving into his music to prepare for an interview I did. I said the same thing to NYCD about Chris Isaak at the Beacon. $100? That's insane. $100 was an insane price to pay for a superstar in a stadium just a few years go. Now EVERY act at the Beacon is $100. I was downstairs at Twon Hall, but I love thr front row of the balcony too. It's practically my favorite seat anywhere in the city for a concert.