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B.B. King charms with songs, tales, Lucille

When you hear than B.B. King is 83 years old, battling diabetes and sits during all of his performances, it’s easy to assume that you’ll find a frail old man on his “unofficial” farewell tour. You couldn’t be more wrong.

The king of blues already had his farewell tour in 2006. And “Never say never,” says the man who three years later, still tours around the world, putting on more than 250 shows each year. Even though he turns 84 in less than two weeks, King is as frisky and fresh (on the guitar and off) as he was 40 years ago.

“Don’t be surprised if you see me shaking my boogie a little bit,” he told fans at Wednesday night’s sold-out show at the intimate Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre in Mabelton. All night long, you expected him to do just that as he jammed in his seat.

After 60 years, the blues legend has perfected charming the crowd with song, funny tales (including one about Dr. Viagra) and quips that make him even laugh:

On Michael Phelps: “A guy who swim as fast as he can ought to be able to smoke whatever he wants whenever he wants.”

On women: “I ain’t ever seen a ugly woman.” And “The older we get the prettier they get.”

On parenting: “Children are your children till you get to a certain age; then they become your parents.”

On remarrying: “She can be from 21 to 82.”

But, of course, King charms best when he has a little help from his beloved Lucille. In “Everyday I have the Blues,” one moment he’s using the black Gibson guitar to delicately tease, then strumming hard and quick the next. In John Lee Hooker’s “I’ve Got the Key (Key to the Highway), he passionately wails “Just give me one, one last kiss, baby.”

But one of the night’s favorite was a tune from his 2008 covers album “One Kind Favor.” It was fun to watch King groove to his remake of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean,” a song he says his kids aren’t particularly fond of.

Did you go to the show? What was your favorite? “All Over Again,” (I’ve got a good mind to give up living and go shopping instead”)? Or maybe “Baby I love You.” Or the obvious closer “The Thrill is Gone”?

Also, did you catch the local 18-year-old who opened for King? The talented Stephen Norwood blew the audience away with his soulful voice and take on Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and Donna Hathaway “A Song for Your” and Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come.”

See photos from last night show here.

7 comments Add your comment

Joel

September 3rd, 2009
11:16 am

I wasnt at the show, but I saw the King a fews years ago at Jazzfest. What a treat!

Sad Stuff

September 3rd, 2009
11:55 am

I was there, and while I love B.B., he’s really, really slowing down and it was uncomfortable to watch in parts. He struggled with his singing and really didn’t play much guitar. He’s the consumate entertainer, but I wish I got to see him perform, 5,10 or 15 years ago.

Neal

September 3rd, 2009
11:55 am

Great show!! Up on the lawn with my wife. Pretty impressed with Stephen Norwood. But BB King took the show. His story telling with the band playing softly made you feel like you were in his livingroom. And I bet that lady won’t forget this birthday for a long time — BB King singing a solo of Happy Birthday directly to her.

wordgirl

September 3rd, 2009
1:18 pm

check that last paragraph. donny hathaway sang “a song for you.”

prncessyogi

September 3rd, 2009
3:40 pm

I will not pay to see BB again. I was truly disappointed in his show at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA. I don’t mind his sitting. He only sange 4 songs, and I didn’t know any of them. the only song I knew, and he sang it when leaving was When the Saints Go Marching In. It’s time for him to hang LLucille up. I wanted to hear the blues not the stories and jokes.

Benton

September 3rd, 2009
5:59 pm

There are plenty of good blues players around. Fat Matt’s and Blind Willie’s hosts them regularly. However, there’s only ONE B.B. King. Sure, King played with a little more fire 25 years ago, but when he cuts loose on the guitar, the years wash away. At this stage of his career, B.B. isn’t interested in playing flashy solos, but rather in punctuating the music of his exceptional band with the kind of guitar fills that only he can provide. Some may say they won’t pay to see B.B. again. I’d pay to see him again TOMORROW. He may like to sit on his chair and tell his little stories, but he was always about that kind of informal approach. Listen to his live recording from the Ole Miss concert and you’ll hear pretty much the same kind of “storyteller” approach as he presented in Mableton. B.B. is up there to have a good time and to help YOU have a good time, too. And he does it by chatting, telling tales, playing blues and joking around. Muddy’s gone. Wolf is gone. John Lee’s gone. But B.B. keeps on rolling.

T

September 4th, 2009
11:45 am

I toured with B.B on his first “B.B. Kings Bluesfest” in ‘92. I worked for The Fabulous Thunderbirds at the time. B.B told me he’s been basically playing the same show since 1954. But so freakin’ what, he’s B.B King OK?. The man has a vocabulary of probably a million songs, been EVERYWHERE, some places twice, done just about everything and he’s 82? Well from the news yesterday, Charlie Watts won’t be with The Stones when he’s 82, and he won’t be playing 250+ shows a year all over the world! B.B., my hat’s off to you.