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Author: Subject: BB King in Nashville 4/7/14

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  posted on 4/8/2014 at 06:38 PM
Trekked from Bham to Nashville for one of my best pal's 50th birthday; one of the ways we celebrated was going to the BB King/Robert Cray show. Cray, IMHO, was his usual skilled, professional, boring self.

I've seen BB 4-5 times since the late 80's, the last time probably 6-8 years ago. So I knew a good bit of what to expect. He sits, his voice was still pretty strong, he could still "hit the note" for brief periods of time....it was far from embarrassing.

But that was not the case last night.

Introducing his band to the audience after the first song, King appeared to be less than sure of their names and got confused about who he’d introduced (he named the keyboard player, bassist, and drummer, then started again with keyboard player, bassist, and drummer, and I’m pretty confident used slightly different names the second time around with both the bassist and drummer.)

King sang Rock Me Baby – just a simple I/IV/V blues progression – and added a few guitar licks. His guitar played was messy, sputtering, and almost completely lacking the vibrato that King is so famous for. Upon the completion of Rock Me Baby, King spoke to the crowd, which he did often, usually mentioning his age (88) but generally speaking in a mumbling, rambling manner. He then began a guitar intro to the next song, and proceeded to sing…Rock Me Baby. Again.

He had a similar experience with the song You Are My Sunshine. King played an epic version, length wise – it would have fit right in on the Allman’s At Fillmore East – with the crowd actually doing a significant part of the singing. As he kept repeating the chorus over and over, with many a “false” ending, he finally stopped and spoke to the audience again. A few of the crowd yelled out song suggestions, which King attempted to hear, but one of his band mates had to translate for/to King. He finally turned to the band and said “Thrill” and they kicked into The Thrill is Gone. Upon completion, and after some more rambling from King, he then started into another epic version of….You Are My Sunshine. It was not a segue from/back into, either.

After about an hour of stage time, some of BB aides come onstage, which signified to me the show was over. Yet BB stayed sitting, tossing picks into the crowd, signing a few autographs, all while his band is playing a soft background exit song. The Aides de la King ended up waiting on BB for perhaps 15 minutes, all the while the crowd is leaving. We stayed for a good bit of that, and I’d estimate that when we left, well over half the crowd was gone but the band was still lightly playing, King’s assistants/helpers were still waiting on him, and he seemed a bit confused as to what exactly was going on.

I don’t know if BB had a particularly bad night or if that is par for the course these days. But it was a rough, unsettling viewing of the King of the Blues.

A similar report from a recent St Louis gig I found today:

http://blog.thebluesmag.com/post/82071742869/b-b-king-heckled-at-painful-gi g

 
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  posted on 4/8/2014 at 06:44 PM
It's probably time for ol' Blues Boy to retire. He can hang out in Bluesville and tell stories, forget names, make it up as he goes and hopefully enjoy his regal status.

 

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  posted on 4/8/2014 at 07:04 PM
We all get old.

These days, when you go to see acts like (especially) BB King, you must be willing to accept that you are (in part) just going to pay respect. It's similar to visiting an aging relative. You never know what the visit will be like.

I've seen BB three times over the past 5 years. The first of these shows (Alabama Theater) was a good show! His vocals were sharp and he was pretty much on the ball throughout the show.

The second time was another show at the Alabama. This one was similar to what you describe of the Nashville show. BB seemed like he'd left his hearing aid at home. He was just lost at times - forgetting lyrics, chopping off songs in the middle and playing the same tune twice on at least one occasion. He even found himself trying to hear (and respond to) audience comments. It was pretty sad.

The last time was when he opened for TTB in Tuscaloosa a couple of years ago. He was ... as good as you're going to get him anymore on this night. I had great seats on the second row. BB was practically sitting in my lap. His band was incredible and BB stuck to the script throughout the evening. The crowd loved him and he loved 'em right back.

If BB plays a show in my area, I'd probably go. My expectations would be so low there would be little way that he could disappoint. Truthfully, whether I'd go might depend on who was on the bill with him.

Not to knock on anybody. Like I said, we'll all get old (hopefully). But this year's Beacon run saw both Butch and Gregg having to sit shows out. The mind sometimes makes promises the body can't fill. It's science. It's mechanical. It's aging. It's inevitable.

God bless BB King.

 

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  posted on 4/8/2014 at 07:31 PM
yeah Rusty, I won't much hardly disagree with any of that. I wouldn't of gone except that I was invited.

That being said...I'd probably argue that when it becomes mostly embarrassing, it's probably time to call it quits. Or figure out a way to really, really limit the embarrassment.

 
 


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