Legendary bluesman still going strong
B.B. King, possibly America's greatest living link to the Southern blues tradition of the early 20th century, packed the Buell Theatre Monday night for a full-band extravaganza not all that different from the Memphis club shows of King's early days.
King, 84, played most of the concert sitting down, but his posture did not diminish his expressive singing and trademark vibrato guitar style. In fact, it only increased the sense that the audience was watching a master at work. It was almost disconcerting to witness the energy, skill and sheer amount of sound and feeling radiating from a single senior citizen.
While King touched on the expected hits, the concert meandered and flowed like the Mississippi River, with jam sessions, instrumental solos and King's famous stories making it unclear at times where one song ended and the next began. Lucille, his black Gibson guitar, was a character in at least one, not to mention the evening's co-star.
King gave his band plenty of room to strut their stuff, not even stepping on stage until the third song of the set and calling the audience's attention to band members any time they did something impressive. King joked that he was old enough to be most of the band's grandfather, and in fact his nephew plays baritone saxophone with the band.
Love was another topic that seemed to weigh on King's mind. He dedicated several songs to "all the new lovers" and clasped his hands over his heart when the crowd applauded especially loud.
"Everyone wants to be loved," he said at one point. "Problem is, when you get to be my age, nobody wants you."
Judging by the audience's deafening reaction, that was one thing the master got wrong.