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Saw BB King last night

M

Member 1762

I went and saw BB King in Dallas (Grand Prairie) last night. The diversity of the crowd at this event really surprised me. There were people from all walks of life, age, race, culture, etc. That was very cool to see that his music brings in so many different people. He put on another good show. I got into BB King as my father (who has passed away) was a big fan of his music. I've also introduced him to my 15yo daughter and she likes his music as well. This was the first time I was able to take her to see him, so it was a special event to get to share his music with her as my father had shared it with me when I was young. She would smile as I leaned over to her to tell her when "Pop's" favorite songs were being played.

This was either the 3rd or 4th time I've seen him. I'm glad I got my daughter there last night because as much as I hate to say it, it unfortunately appears he's really going downhill at this point. He is 84 years old now, really struggles with his guitar, has a hard time hitting the notes in a lot of the songs anymore; but still put on a good show. Great jokes, story telling and crowd interaction.

At several points during the show, people would walk up to him while he was telling a story and want to shake it his hand or say something to him. This seemed pretty odd to me, but didn't seem to bother him at all. At one point, a really attractive, well endowed woman wearing a very revealing top walked up and bent over the stage to talk to him. As she was walking off, he said into the mike, "Man, it sure is good to still be alive" and the crowd fell out laughing.

His guitar player was sitting in for his usual guy that was sick. The fill in was pretty danged good. Nice, nice chops. Played really tasteful the whole night and ripped it up when BB would motion to him for a solo. His bass player and drummer always impress me. Those guys are just flat out tight and can do blues/R&B in their sleep. Their solos were equally impressive. Also, their dynamics never cease to amaze me. BB would call for quiet and the bass player would keep a high tempo walking line flying while bringing the volume down to a whisper just by modifying his finger attack. Highly impressive to me as a bass player.

The opening act was a acoustic singer/songwriter named Rachel Cantu. Not my thing but for that style, she seemed fine but it just was really out of place opening for BB, imo. Despite this, the diverse crowd was really receptive to her.

We left when he finished the first set saying he was done. It was considerably shorter than previous performances, but at 84 years old I think he's entitled to that. I'm not sure if he did any encores or not, but we were ready to go by that point anyway since my girlfriend had to work in the morning.

All in all, a good performance. Was really nice to "pass the torch" so to speak with my daughter but sort of sorrowful to see BB going downhill after all these years, but its inevitable and he is still doing what he loves it appears. He mentioned in song as he always does, that he will be playing music like this until the day he dies. Hearing it this time made it all the more real to us.
 

Celticdave

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Thanks for sharing this with us. We don't have children yet but I love sharing music with my 10 yr old sister (yes, same parents!). She called me a few nights ago and asked, "How do I play that Smoke on the Water song?" Haha...

BB is a true gentleman and inspires me in so many ways - musically, professionally, and even as a human being in some respects. I love that he says that being a "Bluesman" doesn't mean drinking booze and living life like a bum. For me, he is as real as it comes.
 

suckamc

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4,615
I was there, too. And definitely have a different assessment of the show. I'd love to hear from others who were there. And I'm surprised that the Nokia people kept letting everyone walk up there.

The opening act... what's her name... sounded good.

BTW, the parking signs said that people who walked up instead of needed to park were required to pay for entrance onto the premisis. I'd love to see that get challenged in court.
 

Celticdave

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I was there, too. And definitely have a different assessment of the show. I'd love to hear from others who were there.

The opening act... what's her name... sounded good.
Care to elaborate?
 
M

Member 1762

I'd like to hear a different perspective on it as well.

One thing that I forgot to mention about the show was during Rachel Cantu's set she had an open glass of water (I guess) and was putting it on top of BB's Lab Series while she played. For some reason that bugged me a little. Just a basic nono for tube amps anyway and I mean it was BB's amp, man! :)
 

suckamc

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Care to elaborate?
Well, the thing I'm worried about is that no matter how he plays (and in this case, how LITTLE he plays) TGP'ers who weren't even there will flame anyone who has something negative to say.

But since I was there...

It was weird. It's possible he had a ton of Nyquil or something more alcoholic in his system (he'd had the flu for a month... at 84!!!) but his playing went way beyond blues-guy clams and stuff (and believe me, I'm WAY into mistakes and GOING for stuff... technical precision means nothing to me; I have a jazz background). He had some SERIOUS difficulties getting ANY notes to come out of the guitar at a a bunch of points. And to take one example, at the end of one song early on, he tried to hit the tonic note up high like he does a lot (one of his many contributions to the blues/rock vocabulary) and he hit a fret too high, then he tried again and hit a fret too low... then he tried again and got it. It was NOT within the realm of what blues fans usually take as normal blues playing... it was an old guy with the flu (and maybe drunk) trying pretty hard to still manage an instrument that is fighting him back and winning. No one who wasn't there should chime in with "blues is supposed to be sloppy"... I'm all for that. This was different. This was like describing the Chevy Chase talkshow to someone who didn't see it... no matter how bad you make it out, they think you mean, "It was awful... FOR A NETWORK TV SHOW." No, the Chevy Chase show was awful FOR A JR HIGH THEATER PRODUCTION. Last night wasn't "blues sloppy"... it was a guy who just can't operate the thing at all anymore (or hopefully he still can, but the flu or alcohol or medicine was taking a temporary toll). Truth be told: I spent the whole night worrying that he was dying.

But the bigger thing was the fact that he LITERALLY talked 50%-ish of the night. That is not an exaggeration.

Believe me, I give him a pass in that nothing like this diminishes his greatness one bit. He's a legend and is entitled to all the bad nights he wants. And I hope I'm even alive at 84. But calling that a decent show... I mean, I suppose there could be a basic difference of opinon. But I think it's more likely that he could have come out and taken a poop onstage and a bunch of people would have called it a great show because he's BB King. So for me, HE gets a pass... that show doesn't.
 

suckamc

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4,615
I'd like to hear a different perspective on it as well.

One thing that I forgot to mention about the show was during Rachel Cantu's set she had an open glass of water (I guess) and was putting it on top of BB's Lab Series while she played. For some reason that bugged me a little. Just a basic nono for tube amps anyway and I mean it was BB's amp, man! :)

+1!!! Those Lab Series are pretty rare and BB LOVES those things... keep your water off of there! I was thinking the same thing.

I liked how the spotlight operator played along on the one girl you mentioned.
 
M

Member 1762

It was NOT within the realm of what blues fans usually take as normal blues playing... it was an old guy with the flu (and maybe drunk) trying pretty hard to still manage an instrument that is fighting him back.

But the bigger thing was the fact that he LITERALLY talked 50%-ish of the night. That is not an exaggeration.

Believe me, I give him a pass in that nothing like this diminishes his greatness one bit. He's a legend and is entitled to all the bad nights he wants. And I hope I'm even alive at 84. But calling that a decent show... I mean, I suppose there could be a basic difference of opinon. But I think it's more likely that he could have come out and taken a poop onstage and a bunch of people would have called it a great show because he's BB King. So for me, HE gets a pass... that show doesn't.
Yeah I don't disagree with this assessment. I've grown up with his music, I've seen him a few times at different stages of his career and sort of have a sentimental attachment to him as he's been sort of a family tradition among us.

I knew he was 84 years old going in the door, so I had set my expectations accordingly. My mom is 76 years old and we have to help her around the house, so I have utmost respect for a diabetic man that is eight years older than my mom touring around the world and leading a blues band night after night. So to see him at 84 recovering from the flu and not being able to perform like he used to is understandable to me. But I could see how people would be upset if they had not seen him before or knew what his physical state was before paying top dollar for tickets to see him.
 

Celticdave

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+1!!! Those Lab Series are pretty rare and BB LOVES those things... keep your water off of there! I was thinking the same thing.

I liked how the spotlight operator played along on the one girl you mentioned.
I agree that there's no excuse for that. For the record, those Lab Series amps are solid state - can you believe some of the tone he's gotten over the years with that thing?! There was one at a local store not too long ago but they had just taken it in and couldn't sell it yet. I was itching so bad to plug into it!

As for the other review, I can understand where you're coming from. He is old and I've always wondered how much longer he could pull it off with all that weight on him. I think about Les Paul passing recently and he seemed to be in great shape for his 90s.

One thing I think people forget about BB is that he's a storyteller. Actually, that's what all true bluesmen are and were. I'm not saying you're wrong in stating that you didn't dig it at all. For me, I enjoy it. I recently got a hold of his BB King: Live DVD and he was talking quite a bit, telling stories about when he was younger and how it was for him in the beginning.

Also, we have to keep in mind that he's probably thinking that every show could be his last, you know? In that DVD, he does a special section at the end where he speaks directly to "us" from his hotel room. I was literally in tears after what he said. I even called my wife over to watch it with me again and said, "THIS is what I am all about!" He's more than just a guitar player.

All of that being said, again, I'm not saying you were wrong in your opinion. One thing that does stick out to me that you kept mentioning was his physical condition - keep in mind that the guy's 84, probably was heavily medicated, and on top of that, has been fighting with diabetes for a long time. He is not a drinker though, so if he was intoxicated, it wasn't bc he was chugging some Jack Daniels before coming on stage.

Just tossing that out there...
 

suckamc

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4,615
I wasn't upset about it (and yeah, I forgot about the diabetes... even though he mentioned it). It was good to get to see and hear him, like it's good to see and hear my grandfather play fiddle. It's more THE FACT THAT HE'S MY GRANDFATHER and that he's active and the like... cause truth be told, his playing has gotten so bad in every respect.
 
M

Member 1762

I tihnk that's probably a good way to sum up my perspective on going to see him at this point. It's like going to see my grandfather perform. I'm not expecting it to be any musical greatness on his part, just a good time seeing him again in case it might be the last.

Except I have to pay $60 if I want to go see this grandfather :)
 
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Flyin' Brian

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Anyone who had gone to see the late Les Paul over the last year or so would have the same conclusion. With the arthritis and all, he was a shadow of the player he once was, but damn he was still Les Paul!

Thanks for the truthful BB reviews. He'll always be BB.
 

Powderfinger

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I saw him, I think, two years ago, and he was great. Sorry to hear he's not playing well.
 

JUS1BEER

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I was there as well and I enjoyed the show. Yes sloppy playing on BB's part but hey he is old. I enjoyed the stories and it just goes to show that if you can not entertain like you used to... then figure out another way to get the job done. Which he did.. by surrounding yourself with talent and keep going. I hope I do as well when i'm 84.

I remember looking over at my friends wife during one of the songs and she was beaming, grinning from ear to ear loving it. I think sometimes I tend to look at concerts with my muscians jaundiced eye, you know what I mean ..." We can do that better" type sentiment. So when I saw her just enjoying the show instead well I kicked back and enjoyed it my self. BB still has some of that magic left in his tank and when I saw him control the band, volume wise I sat back and just grinned. I had to help this elderly black lady up a few times during the show to see better and to move out of peoples way, she could barley walk, and she put her head on my shoulder and held my hand and sat there mesmerized ... who knows probly thinking back 40 years and remembering some good times. I know she enjoyed the show. My 2 cents.
 

Troy T. Blues

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Thanks guys...though very sad to hear that. I guess I always think of BB as one of those immortal guys that will always be there, on top of his game without any decline. He's a true legend indeed.
 

dohootowl

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I didn't opt for this show because of these very concerns. I didn't want to take my wife and daughter to see BB at this point in his life, because they wouldn't have the proper frame of reference and I don't think would appreciate him as much. He has worked so hard over the years and I think it's time he takes a rest. IMO, he's touring because he feels a personal obligation to keeping the torch lit and for reaching out to others. God bless him, he is greatness and one of the most wonderful human beings in modern music!
 




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