BB King Up Close

Rob Varak robbiev@INTERACCESS.COM
Tue Nov 14 13:55:15 EST 1995

        I had the pleasure of seeing noted song thief BB King up close
and personal at the Cubby Bear in Chicago on Sunday.  Spectacular!!!  I
jumped at the chance to get tix three months ago because of the size of
the venue.  I've seen BB everywhere from outdoor venues to Orchestra
Hall, but the chance to see him in a club was way too much to pass up.
Mr. King did not disappoint.

        I attended the second show (10:30PM on a Sunday...Yikes!), and
managed to squirm my way up to about 10' from the stage.  BB's set was
pretty standard stuff.  He had big amp and mic problems on the first
couple of tunes, and looked pissed off for the first time I've seen.
Nevertheless, he handled it like the true professional he is.  I don't
have the set list, but like I wrote, it's the usual stuff.  The set
really took off when BB sent off the horns and sat down.  He played about
45 minutes in this manner, moving from song to song without stopping and
weaving his trademark storytelling througout.  Highlights included "Five
Long Years", "How Blue Can You Get" and "Black Rat" by Memphis Minnie.
It was interesting that when BB asked if anyone knew Memphis Minnie,
about 2/3 of the crowd screamed.  Something tells me that may not have
been accurate.

        Overall, it was a brilliant show.  BB is still master of
creating "the Chill".  Time and time again he played with transcendant
elegance.  The fact that he could play with such brilliance for 2 1/2
hours at 70 years old is a testament to his excellence.

        I konw this is long, but I couldn't pass on a quick word about
what a gentleman BB is.  I know it's been written many times by scribes
more eloquent than I, but his warm and kind nature really is obvious to
the audience.  I've never seen an artist who triggered such adoration
merely by walking on stage.  He reinforced this notion at the end of the
set.  He was doing his usual 15 minute autograph and pick throwing
session (didn't get my "Live at the Regal" signed though), and people
were rushing the stage.  He stopped the band, took the microphone and
kindly asked that the audience not shove forward.  It seems there was a
gentleman in a wheelchair at the foot of the stage, and as BB said, he
was just their to enjoy a show.  BB handled it with class and humor, and
the crowd appreciated that.  The same could be said of this giant's
entire career.

Rob Varak
LaGrange, Il USA
"Giving money and power to government is like
 giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys"--P.J. O'Rourke

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