Srtory by Tony BonyataAt 74, B.B.'s still king of the blues, B.B. King was at the Riverside in Milwaukee. "The thrill is gone!" howled B.B. King to a packed house last Thusrday evening. Ironically, however, after five decades of winning over audiences with his majestic brand of blues, the thrill of this blues legend is far from gone.
Photo by Phil Bonyata
Fronting an uptempo R&B band, with a sound as clean as the lines in their violet tuxes. King said, "At 74 my band told me I've earned the right to sit down if I want to. "And I want to" he laughed as he took a seat along with his longtime love, Lucille-his electrcic guitar.
King's charming, deep voice and stinging guitar solos enriched the numbers "You Gotta Love Somebody," with its gritty blues and brassy Memphis Shoals horn section, "Please Accept My Love", as well as his signature number "The Thrill is gone." Interjecting engaging anecdotes around his music, which melded Delta Blues with jazz, gospel and even a touch of pop, King recalled his past as a farmhand in his home state of Mississippi."When I was younger, I was picking cotton on my knees. Now man wasn't meant to be on his knees except for one thing, and that's to pray, "he exclaimed before bursting into a heartfelt version of his classic number, "How Blue Can You Get?" Although King had a wealth of his own music to play that evening, it was the raucous tunes from the 1940's jump-blues bandleader Louis Jordan that dominated his show.
King's last album, Let the Good Times Roll:The Music of Louis Jordan featured his own bluesy interpretations of the master's originals.
In a fitting tribute to one of his biggest musical inspirations, King and band offered snappy versions of Jordan classics such as "Caldonia," "Early In the Morning," "Aint That Just Like a Woman" (which King preceded with apologies to the ladies in the house),"Let the Good Times Roll" and "I'm Gonna Move to The Outskirts of Town."
Opening for King was 70-year-old soul veteran Bobby "Blue" Bland who wooed the audience with his buttery, soulful voice and throaty snarls.
A behemoth of a man, Bland's gentle, sexy vocal delivery on his 1975 hit "I Wouldn't Treat a Dog (The Way You Treat Me)" as well as the standard "Aint No Sunshine (When She's Gone)" made it apparent who Barry White learned his virile, bedside manners from.
As his four-piece horn section kept things swinging, Bland squeezed in gospel, blues, R&B and, above all, a deep soul that gave the headlining King a run for his money.
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