Tuesday, May 26, 2015

B.B. King remembered: my first review of the artist

The recent death of B.B. King has continued to resonate, including news today that his death is being investigated as a homicide:

I first saw B.B. King in early 1993. when I reviewed that concert in Santa Ana, CA for The Orange County Register, and am re posting my Wednesday, January 13, 1993 review here:

King proves he's not done being blue

By Robert Kinsler

Published: WED, 1/13/1993

While the rain poured down outside Tuesday night, B.B. King dished out plenty of musical crying inside before a standing-room-only crowd packed in at the Rhythm Cafe in Santa Ana.

The famed singer, guitarist and composer 
 a native of Mississippi who made his recording debut back in 1949  proved he isn't ready yet to hang up his beloved Gibson named Lucille.

Dishing out blues throughout a gracious 11-song set in his first concert (he also played a second show at the club later in the evening), King showcased his distinctive singing and guitar style that have been a major force on the American blues scene for three decades.

Backed by a tight eight-member band, King alternated between rollicking, uptempo numbers and slower, more melodic jams.

He won over the crowd with his personable wit and charming smile. Throughout the night, he would frequently cup his hands to his ears to get applause for the other members of his group.

But mostly it was his black six-string guitar that did the talking.

In one solo after another, whether performing the rocking "Let the Good Times Roll" or more traditional slow-paced numbers, King demonstrated that his skills on the guitar are undiminished.

A crowd of young and old cheered King from the beginning. In fact, when he came out he was greeted by a standing ovation.

After finishing his final and most powerful song of the set, "The Thrill is Gone," King stood at the end of the stage and signed autographs for the dozens of fans who rushed the stage.

Leon Warren's rhythm guitar playing added fire to King's playing throughout the set.

The concert was an experience and sight not likely to be quickly forgotten.

Opening act A.J. Croce, a pianist, singer and son of the late Jim Croce, who also favors the blues, started out slowly but gained momentum as his set went along.

While he and his backing band sounded like nothing special in the opening song, "Smoking Good Time," Croce and company turned things around by the third tune.

"Which Way, Steinway," an original Croce number describing having to perform a show without a piano, was an especially musical number that fused jazz and swing styles.

In "Keep on Looking," he used the blues medium to sing of the pratfalls of rushing into marriage.
Who: B.B. King Where: Rhythm Cafe in Santa Ana Background: The legendary blues guitarist performed two shows Tuesday night. 

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