I’ve seen B.B. King perform at least 8 to 10 times in a half-dozen cities over the past four decades, and with each succeeding show, he seems to add five pounds and drop five minutes of onstage playing time.
So why keep going? Because the 84-year old King is the most renowned and perhaps the most important blues artist who ever drew breath. Because regardless of how short of a time it turns out to be, there is a period when King spreads himself into a chair, cradles his guitar Lucille and delivers the riffs that have become the living emblem of our timeless blues heritage — right then, right there, with no media filter other than a microphone and a speaker. The tone and timing will be immaculate, the resonance perfectly tailed. The thrill of it is never gone.
Check this out and tell me you don’t want to absorb some of it in the flesh.
Instead of being part of some festival, or towing along an inferior young’un like Jonny Lang (although, truth be told, most everyone is an inferior young’un next to B.B.), Saturday’s gig at the Orpheum Theater will feature one of the flashiest and most iconic guitarists from the Chicago blues epicenter, Buddy Guy. An overt mentor to rock gods from Hendrix to Clapton and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his own right, Guy seems to plug himself as well as his axe in every time he takes the stage.
At the tender age of 73, Guy still sweats buckets, still might pluck the strings with his teeth, or behind his back — without, as they say, missing a beat — and still delivers that sizzling electric Chicago blues that is built from Guitar Slim, a trio of Kings (B.B., Albert, Freddie), Magic Sam and Elmore James, among many others. Guy makes the tradition his own through his showmanship and his amazing tone, which is like burred barbed-wire.
Bottom line, B.B. belongs on any Mount Rushmore of the blues, and Buddy Guy would also be up for consideration. Your grandkids will appreciate the stories you can tell about this gig.
Here is Guy in performance just last year.
Here are BB and Buddy with Clapton and Jim (the lesser) Vaughn.
B.B. King and Buddy Guy at the Orpheum Theatre; tickets are $58.50-$78.50.