NOTE: This concert occurred in January of 2012.
He has reigned as King of the Blues for over 60 years now. But unfortunately, for 87 year old Riley B. King-known to the world as B.B. King-the time may have come to abdicate the throne.
King’s six-piece B.B. King Blues Band opened the New Year’s show right on schedule and entertained the Kravis Center crowd with two jazzy instrumental numbers-taking the time to highlight each individual band member with a solo.
King himself was soon introduced to an immediate standing ovation, and once he had finally settled down and plugged in his legendary Gibson guitar Lucille, it was immediately clear that this evening was going to be seemingly drawn out. King spent almost fifteen minutes introducing his band members, as, in his words, “if I don’t, I may forget to at the end of the evening.”
After this slow, almost incoherent portion of the show had finished, King and his band started playing “Rock Me Baby”. Suddenly, in the middle of the song, King interrupted the band, joking with them and telling them that they were off key-when, in reality, the one member of the band who was the most off-key was quite possibly King himself. The band never did get the chance to finish the song, as King often went off on a tangent, flirting with the females in the audience, telling the oddest stories about his early career, and continuing to have his band simply play backup music.
King then energized the audience by announcing “a song you all know the words to.” Oddly, it took about ten minutes for King to actually start singing said song-the classic standard “You Are My Sunshine”. For another ten minutes, King was having his loyal fans repeat the song several times.
By the time King played his greatest hit, “The Thrill is Gone”, he seemed exhausted and didn’t seem to interact with the crowd as much. At this point, he was barely playing Lucille at all-practically just using his guitar as a stage prop. His voice is still that of the pleading bluesman the world has come to know and love-yet rambling off more than ever.
After the seemingly autobiographical “Thrill is Gone”, when King attempted to close the show, his loyal followers started begging for an encore. King begrudgingly obliged with a surprisingly rousing rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” For the fourth and final song that King completed throughout a ninety minute concert, the gospel classic surely didn’t disappoint. For the only time all night, King and his combo had the audience on their feet, clapping, cheering, and singing along. This was truly the highlight of the evening.
So while King may need to retire-perhaps due to age, perhaps due to the fact that his current show is more of an “evening with” than a concert, he certainly had the crowd divided when this reporter chatted with some audience members. Michael Kellen of Boca Raton stated “B.B.’s a legend, and it was an honor just to see him in his element, doing what he does best.” Natasha Scriggins of Lake Worth noted that “He has the fame. He has the money. He has the respect and adulation. He should hang it up while he still has the chance”.
Perhaps Kellen and Scriggins are both correct.