Live review: B.B. King @ the Temple Buell TheatreBy | April 21st, 2010 | 3 comments
Aside from opening act Rachel Cantu, the precursor to B.B. King’s actual stage appearance at Denver’s Buell Theatre on Monday also happened to be one of the evening’s major highlights: his backing band.
To mass applause, the eight-piece B.B. King Band (comprised of four horns, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards and drums) immediately kicked the evening into high gear with two band-only songs.
Adequately showcasing each musician’s talent, the carried a big -band sensation and sent the audience almost automatically into hand clapping and cheers. Hell, even a flute solo was thrown into the mix.
But flute solo or no, the crowd didn’t really make some noise until the Blues King himself arrived. As far as introductions are concerned, B.B. King is unmistakable. Walking with a strong swagger and donned in a purple suit jacket, King acknowledged the audience’s uproarious applause before taking a seat at the center of the stage. He tossed out guitar pics and embraced the love.
“It sounds so good to me,” King said in response to the applause.
With Lucille (his famously-named guitar) in hand, King’s recognizable sound filled the auditorium. His hands moved deftly across the frets, though, as would be seen throughout the evening, not for long periods of time.
Though masterfully played, King’s attention to the guitar appeared in spurts. It’s likely that at the age of 84, King can only physically focus his attention to his signature craft in segments. To keep the flow going, the B.B. King Band took the musical reigns through songs like “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Everyday I Have the Blues.” When actually playing, King played attentively. But when not working the strings, he used his vocal chords for one form of expression or another.
Let’s get one thing straight: B.B. King is a talker. It’s not too far of a stretch to say that the amount of talk time on stage was nearly equivalent to the play time. Roughly 11 songs were played in total — not much for a show that went on well past its allotted time. But that is not to say that the experience of the show was less than memorable. From recounts of the now-extinct trans-Atlantic Concorde flight to life in Mississippi and even bowel movement jokes, the man is nothing short of an entertainer. When you pay to see B.B. King perform, you pay for a slew of masterful musicians and an extended sit with your crazy old granddad (who just also happens to be the King of Blues Guitar).
Chattiness aside, it’s also important not to glaze over King’s voice. Though the years have piled on, you could still hear passion in every belt. His rich and soulful singing was unwavering, and only proved that you can take the man out of Mississippi, but you can’t take Mississippi out of the man.
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Erica Grossman is a Denver-based writer and photographer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.