Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The King of the Blues Can Still Jive at 85: BB King

I've got the key to the highway
Feel I got to go
Gonna leave here running
Walking is both too slow

--BB King ("Key to the Highway")

When I learned the King of the Blues was playing Wendover's Peppermill Concert Hall, I knew we -- me, my daughter, my son-in-law, and his parents -- were going.  BB King was the reason my son-in-law began to play the guitar.  We saw BB back in 2009 at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, too, and we absolutely loved his show.

Most of us cannot "remember" what it's like to be 85. We have to look to our parents, grandparents, or community elders to form a basis for comparison.  Generally, folks of that age are moving a little slow, if they're moving at all.  As BB sauntered tentatively to the center of the stage, it was an instant standing ovation.  No doubt the crowd appreciated that seeing an American icon of music -- and King of the Blues -- is truly a privilege.  On his way to his chair, BB thrilled the packed house with a "Mississippi hip roll," a stunt he repeated throughout the 75 minute show, mostly from a seated position.  I wish everyone I know and especially all his loyal fans could've seen this priceless move.
Cameras were not permitted in the concert hall so the one shown here is from King's website.  That said, BB King was a most picturesque subject at the Peppermill concert, wearing a shiny jacket of red, green, purple, yellow, and black, with a rust red vest underneath.  And he is just is endearing as the picture hints.

BB King's band, which played jazz tunes before BB arrived onstage, has been together for 31 years. I looked down the row at my son-in-law and his dad.  The smiles on their faces were absolutely priceless.  And seeing BB walk on stage made me so emotional!

The concert was short and sweet, in fact, probably the shortest concert I have heard in a long time.  But like I said, twas sweet to hear BB sing "I Need You," his trademark "I'm a Blues Man," and "Key To the Highway."

As he sang, BB showed off some hip action (from a mostly seated position) especially for a man of 85, and the crowd loved it.

Nobody loves me but my mother,
And she could be jivin' too

His personality shone when he bantered with the drummer and shared with the audience another rendition of "Why I Sing the Blues."  BB and his band invited the audience to sing along to "You Are My Sunshine" and got big cheers when the crowd heard the introduction to "The Thrill is Gone."

Musically speaking, the King of the Blues still has it going on in terms of his voice, which sounds as strong as ever, and his guitar finesse.  The picking, strumming, and finger styling were crisp, and finer details like crescendo (getting louder) and decrescendo (getting softer) that many musicians never master, were noticeable.

One of the highlights of a BB King concert is hearing his "take" on life.  It's like sitting in the parlour with your grandpa and being told of the way things used to be.  His message was shorter this time but it was clear: "I love the ladies," he said.  "Ladies are God's greatest gift to the planet."  Well, I'm not going to argue with that.

BB King closed out his set with "Guess Who."

Someone really loves you
Guess who
Someone really cares
Guess who
S'open your heart,
oh, then surely you'll see,
oh, that the someone who really cares is me

And BB, after more than six decades in the music business, your fans love you, too!

No comments:

Post a Comment