Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day 6 - B.B. King

I have never seen B.B. King perform live.  Tonight that changed.

The Thrill is Gone
For years attending one of B.B. King's concerts was one of those things I dreamed about having the chance to do but had basically written off because of the unlikelihood of it occurring.  I figured I wouldn't get the chance to see B.B. perform before he finally retired or passed away.  I was wrong.

As a part of my birthday present, a few weeks ago Rachael surprised me with third row tickets to see B.B. King tonight.  I was speechless when she told me about the gift, but that paled in comparison to my reaction when I saw our seats first hand.  We were close enough to the stage to hear the clicks of amplifier switches and instrument knobs.  We could hear the whispered conversations between musicians as they prepared to start the show.  It was unbelievable, and then the show began.  After walking out onto the stage, B.B. King, a musical legend, was sitting feet away from us holding one of the most famous instruments in music history.

As the show started, B.B. King eased into the set by introducing the band. He talked about some personal experiences with each member, taking time to rib each bandmates more than a few times, and then he began to play. The sounds of horns, keys, drums, guitars, and B.B.'s voice locked in place together around the familiar melody of "I Need You So." As the music rushed through the theatre the audience stirred into a state of captivated excitement. It almost seemed each of us in the crowd realized what we were witnessing in harmony and collectively decided to celebrate to the beat of the music. People began clapping their hands, dancing, and periodically whooping as the emotion of the song rose and fell. In that moment I found affirmation for my years long desire to see B.B. King perform live. I knew what I was seeing was one of those things I would never forget.

This feeling continued as B.B. worked his way through a his set.  Between each song B.B. chronicled portions of his life, told a few jokes, and shared observations he had on members of the crowd.  It was strange seeing a man whose presence was larger than the auditorium around him make everyone feel as though they were listening to a grandfather tell stories in his living room on a Sunday morning.  We were all hanging on his every word, and the only thing he cared about was making sure each of us was happy and entertained.

B.B. King
Tonight I saw the King of Blues (damn right I capitalized that), at 87 years old, capture an audience for two and half hours. When he was done he stayed for another 30 minutes handing out guitar picks, giving away memorabilia, and signing autographs as people less than half his age shuffled out of the theatre.  I don't know that I have ever been to a show where a performer was so in tune with his audience and so willing to get them involved in his performance. I doubt I will ever attend another concert quite like this one. After this experience, I wonder why I waited so long to attend one of B.B. King's concerts.  I have Rachael to thank for making that dream a reality.  Although it has been a long time coming, seeing B.B. King live was worth the wait.

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