Most people never get to experience the live presence of a true legend. Make no mistake, at 87 years old, B.B. King is a true living legend. King has defined his own style of blues that has lasted since he started recording in 1949.
King started playing at 15 and envied the blues players that made heavy use of slide guitars, but could never master the style. Instead, he created his own style by learning to fluidly bend the notes to emulate the slide players. King makes his semi-hollow Gibson guitar he’s named “Lucille” sing with long, sustained notes and slow, elegant note shifts that drip with emotion.
As a result, he’s won more Grammys than he can count on two hands, has electrified dance halls and arenas, played for presidents and, if you’re lucky, he will play for you.
However, that privilege does have a cost, and at the Boulder Theater on Monday, the house was filled with a middle aged crowd that could afford the $70 tickets.
King is backed by a strong, seven-piece band, with four horns, bass, drums, guitar and keyboard that warmed up the audience with two instrumental songs before King joined them on stage in his purple, shiny suit.
The setlist included “I Need You So,” “Rock Me Baby,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “When the Saints Go Marching In” and the everlasting crowd favorite, “The Thrill is Gone.”
At the encore, as King flipped his pocket watch to the crowd, he said, “I’ll play one more if you dance for me,” and then broke into “Stormy Monday.”
King is obviously older, slower and now spends as much time telling stories as he does playing, and that’s okay. The stories were entertaining, and when King got his fingers moving, they stayed in motion long enough to punctuate each song with his signature riffs.
Next time a King comes to town, I suggest you go and show your respects. True royalty is getting rarer by the day, and there is no other King that will make you groove as well as this one on a cold November night.
Colorado natives Delta Sonics opened the show with a strong combo of blues harmonica, wailing telecaster solos and sweet, thick bass grooves. “It’s kinda surreal opening up for B.B.,” said harmonica player Al Chesis. Delta Sonics were the International Blues Challenge Semi-Finalists in Memphis 2012, and could be one of the best blues bands in Colorado today.
Allen Klosowski is the social media strategist for The Denver Post. Check out his photos online.
Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.