BB King, Royal Albert Hall, London
The thrill is still there for blues king
Thursday 30 June 2011
He wears his trousers high, and plays his guitar down low – but at 85, the King of the Blues could be forgiven for putting his feet up for good. He's a monarch who takes his time, hitting the stage at this London BluesFest showcase after a lengthy band intro featuring all the right bumps in all the right places as supersized band leader James Bolden waves the charcoal-suited seven-piece into a brassy fanfare.
The crackling solos come and go, then after a couple of numbers he's trailed by a rousing carnie-style rap and the hall rises to its feet and here's BB in a silver jacket and gambler's waistcoat, tossing guitar picks into the crowd as if they were holy relics. He settles down with his guitar, Lucille, plays a little blues that's as arresting as any you'll ever hear, then pauses to speak – there's a lot of storytelling over the next two hours of stage time, the old-time rap of a true showman.
He does get around to the songs, but slowly, via the winding lanes of a senior's wandering mind – or at least, that's the way he plays it tonight. "Key to the Highway", "The Thrill Is Gone", "Rock Me Baby", "You Are My Sunshine" – they will come, but all in good time, along with a roster of stellar guests – Ronnie Wood, Slash and Mick Hucknall included, who sit either side of BB for the last 40 minutes or so. Wood delivers some great slide, Slash plays slow blues with feeling and and Hucknall radiates pride when King remarks, "I never heard a white man sing like he sang." The two trade verses, the players trade riffs, and the band ebbs and falls behind them. Age has taken some of the decoration from King's voice, but not its warmth or depth of expression, and, like fellow senior citizen Willie Nelson, he inhabits his own unique time zone as a player.
In a set that was langorous and casual if tightly bound, and feeling more like a spirited backstage guitar pull than front-of-house showcase scheduled (apparently) for DVD release, B B King came with the keys to the highway in his voluminous pocket, travelled a little, threw out his blessings as kings may do, a master of his art living with the luxury of not having to prove it, and he and his band, and his audience and guests lap up every golden minute.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
- 5 The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral backlash from US parenting groups
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Doctor Who series 8: Watch Peter Capaldi in new ‘Listen!’ teaser trailer
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia