By Seth Williamson, Special to The Roanoke Times
When Boz Scaggs said, “Thanks, we’ve had a ball!” he apparently wasn’t kidding.
The rock star whose career stretches back to the late 1950s played a pops concert with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra on Friday night.
The encores kept coming and coming as the singer and the 3,000 paying customers in the Salem Civic Center didn’t want the night to end. It was nearly 10:30 before Scaggs and his six-piece band left the stage.
Maestro David Stewart Wiley and the orchestra have done a lot of shows with singers dear to the graying baby boom generation. But none has sounded as good as Scaggs did. His light baritone was as supple and expressive as it was when he hit it big in the ’70s with a string of top 20 singles.
The concert followed the usual picnic-at-the-pops format, with a short set by the orchestra to kick off the night, including a big band medley, arrangements from “Evita” and “A Chorus Line,” and Wiley’s own “Blue Ridge Spirit.”
Scaggs’ material was bluesy and tight. He brought along lead and bass guitars, drums, a keyboard man who doubled on a Hammond B3 organ, and a tenor sax player who also played soprano sax and synthesizer. Monet Owens did a tremendous job on backing vocals.
Starting with “Runnin’ Blue,” the band — with occasional sweetening from the RSO strings — ran through hits such as “Jojo,” “Some Change,” “Slow Dancer” and “Sick and Tired.”
Of course, everybody was waiting for his two mega-hits, “Lido Shuffle” and “Lowdown,” both of which had the crowd clapping and singing along.
Scaggs has always been good with ballads and love songs, and in this category were “Harbor Lights,” “Look What You’ve Done to Me” and George Gershwin’s “How Long Has This Been Going On.”
Owens got the first standing ovation with her version of the Bonnie Raitt hit “Something to Talk About,” but the ovations got more frequent as the evening progressed.
The long set of encores included “Georgia,” “What Can I Say” and “We’re All Alone” before Scaggs and his band finally called it quits in front of an audience that didn’t want to see him go.
Seth Williamson produces “Morning Classics” on public radio station WVTF (89.1 FM) in Roanoke.