Janaury 6, 2011
Review by Ralph Greco, Jr.
I just found out that after 60 years playing shows, B.B. King has only missed 18 performances! He apologized to the almost sold-out New Jersey crowd for his sore throat, saying he didn’t want make it 19 missed performances and asked that we bear with him as he rolled through a rag-tag set that didn’t suffer because of his cold.
Resplendent in a gold jacket and sitting on a chair, the 85-year-old blues legend took center stage and commanded it for two solid hours. He was backed by horns, keyboardists, another guitarist, a smokin’ bassist and drummer – all devoted to the man, stopping and starting on a dime when he had the whim to change tunes or lower keys to save his throat.
King’s guitar might have been a tad too loud at times; after all, one wants to hear his beloved Lucille in all her glory. The guitarist was bending strings like crazy, sometimes not finding notes, but generally doing what he does best: commanding a room with his soul.
Chatting more than actual singing, King still he managed his way around “When Love Comes To Town,” the song he recorded with U2 back in the 80s. There was a nice a slow slide into the instrumental “When The Saints Go Marchin’ In,” featuring those horn players in all their subtly. Other highlights included a sweet “I Need You So” and the best song of the night, “Blues Man.”
At this point, what more could any of us ask from B.B. King? The man can still deliver, has fun with this band (especially his drummer, who was egging him on most of the time). He loves to pick out the pretty girls in the audience too.
Many living legends of King’s stature simply rest on their laurels – coming out and playing half-assed renditions of their hits over the course of 50 minutes or so. But watching B.B. King tonight in Jersey (and amazed by the fact that the guy is touring at this stage of his life) and hearing him thank us for letting him play, while assuring us he owed us all one because of this sickness, well…I can say with no fear of contradiction that I saw one of the last real bluesmen and am better for it.
I have thank my neighbor for dragging my crusty old bones to this fantastic show at the last minute.