I think to really get a feel and a love for the blues you need to see it. It’s great to listen to the old records or the cd’s but there is nothing like seeing a blues show live. It can really change your understanding of the music. It is the most basic form of today’s popular music and because of this the emotional component of the music is even rawer. It’s closer to the surface. This is obvious when you see every note played out on a guitarist’s face They call this sucking lemons. Seeing blues live is to witness the personal stories in the songs, the intense passion the blues is played with and the deep feeling that is laid bare so boldly that it can’t help but draw you in. I knew I liked blues but I don’t think it registered how much until I saw BB King live that first time. So in no particular order the third item on my list of great but yet accessible blues is a ticket to see BB King.
I had never seen a real blues show before. A friend and I had bought tickets without really knowing what to expect. We arrived early and found some prime seats. We didn’t realise we would hardly have need for them. BB’s charisma and showmanship was so huge that I have no recollection of the opening act. The show started to great fanfare with the band coming out first and and really ratchetted up the anticipation of BB’s arrival. They rocked the house as BB strolled out on to the stage to a guitar that was being held out for him by his bandleader. He strapped it on and my concept of live music changed.
BB is a wonderful singer, a master of the guitar but also a natural entertainer that had honed his skills playing more than 300 shows per year. The band was razor sharp and tight as could be following the King wherever he decided to go. BB had every trick in the book. At times hamming it up while playing, telling some great stories to set up the songs, singing in falsetto one moment and shouting into the microphone the next he had the crowd in the palm of his impossibly large hand. I wondered how he could play with hands that size. If he could play wasn’t in question.
BB is one of the most expressive guitar players going. He can suck lemons with the best of them. Watching him you can see every feeling or emotion plain as day. He had the ability to take a steady groove and elevate it to another level. At times it seemed the like the place would explode as he whipped the crowd up time and again. I think the most lasting memory of that show was when I scanned the crowd at one point and saw that everyone was moving and everyone was smiling. I mean everyone too. It was the first time I had ever seen that at any concert.
He finished the show to great flourish too. Returning his guitar to the bandleader, he waved to the crowd while walking back and forth across the stage and shaking hands. The band played on with great energy and every 20 or 30 seconds the bandleader would shout “Mr. BB King!” into the mic and the crowd would erupt with more cheers. This went on for 5 to 10 minutes and was truly an amazing spectacle.
I left the concert and knew that the usual diplay of lights and pyrotechnics would not suffice anymore. I had seen a true performer who knew how to entertain but also had the songs and the musical ability to reach an audience that so many performers today do not.
If you are unfortunate and not able to get to a place where you can see BB, item 3b on my list would be BB King’s “Live At The Regal”. It is considered the greatest live album in blues and is an absolutely necessary acquisition for fans of B.B. King or blues in general. My friend Lyfte Ewry, a fine Second Life DJ, told me he could think of no other recording that turned more people on to the blues than that one.
1 Every Day I Have the Blues (Memphis Slim) 2:38
2 Sweet Little Angel (King, Taub) 4:12
3 It’s My Own Fault (King, Taub) 3:29
4 How Blue Can You Get? (Feather) 3:44
5 Please Love Me (King, Taub) 3:01
6 You Upset Me Baby (King, Taub) 2:22
7 Worry, Worry (Davis, Taub) 6:24
8 Woke up This Morning (My Baby’s Gone) (King, Taub) 1:45
9 You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now (Josea, King) 4:16
10 Help the Poor (Singleton) 2:58
Comments are welcome.