Unlike other much younger musicians who milk their farewell tours for all they are worth, B.B. King at age 79 shows no signs of retiring. This year King has a schedule that would exhaust most people half his age. Besides a lengthy North American and European tour, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he recorded an album, he had a biography published, King will assist at the ground breaking of a B.B. King museum in Mississippi this summer and he will attend a gala 80th birthday celebration that is planned for him in this fall. B.B. King shows no signs of slowing down or bidding us farewell.
After his superb band including: Walter King (baritone saxophone and flute), Charlie Dennis (guitar), James Troy (keyboards), Reggie Richards (bass) had warmed up the crowd with two instrumental numbers, B.B. King took the stage at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier to a lengthy and emotional standing ovation. The almost capacity crowd loved the "King of Blues" and the feeling was obviously mutual. For B.B., the "thrill" is definitely not gone! His love of being on stage and playing the blues is obvious even after almost 60 years on stage. Even at his age, King's voice is still unique and rich and he can still make Lucille (his custom-made Gibson guitar) sing like no other. The variations of sounds that King makes come out of his Gibson are all accomplished without pedals or any other accoutrements. His unique sound just comes from his manipulation of the strings with his fingers. In his and the hands of the accomplished musicians in his band, their instruments definitely make you "feel" the blues.
For 90 minutes, B.B. King gave the audience a lesson of the joy and pain that is blues music. King, because of diabetes, now has to perform sitting down, but that does not mean that he is not groovin' and rocking. Early on he stopped during the middle of a song and jokingly told several members in his band not to rush him, that all the numbers would be played at his pace. Do not think that his pace is slow; King has the rare ability to make the audience believe that his show is not mapped out and that he will play for as long as they want him to. He takes his time because he is enjoying himself.
His concerts are a combination of storytelling (he makes even the oldest corniest jokes seem fresh) and music. An interesting array of songs were chosen from his vast catalogue of music; his well-known songs such as, "The Thrill is Gone", "Rock Me Baby", "You Don't Know Me", and "When Love Comes to Town" sounded fresh and relevant and he showed his still-present talent by remaking such well-known classics as Gershwin's "Summertime" and "You Are My Sunshine" (he showed he is still quite the ladies man by dedicating it to all the ladies in the audience) into blues songs.
At the end of the show in a send-off that was fit for a king, B.B. stood at the edge of the stage for about five minutes throwing out guitar picks, chains and pins to the audience who showed their appreciation by giving him another standing ovation. B.B. King shared with us a night of music that all races, colours and ages could appreciate. To illustrate this, during his farewell a young boy was pulled up onstage. He was obviously thrilled to be there (dancing to prove it) and his evening was made one that he won't soon forget when King gave him the pin off his own tuxedo lapel. The love and connection between musician and even the youngest of audience members made it an evening that anyone there will not soon forget.