These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

i got the blues

i don't mean a case of the mondays, either. i got the B.B. King blues. we went with D. and Mig. to see the 81-year-old blues musician perform Wednesday night at DeVos in G.R.

i'll admit to not knowing much about the man or the music. but after listening to him perform, i don't think you have to know his songs.

the man's an class act, witty, funny, a story-teller and he also plays a mean guitar.

we had pretty good seats, only two rows from the bottom on the balcony. we watched him perform right across from us. perfect view.

it was interesting to see him in his suit, his short white hair, broad, dark face and his guitar, Lucille, strapped around his left shoulder.

it hit me as i'm watching this man perform that it's freaking B.B. King in front of me. it was a feeling i didn't have while watching other acts perform in the past. i guess it's that he's such a legendary performance revered by other great acts. plus, for the first time in several years, i've got good glasses and was able to see the performer clearly.

i'd close my eyes during some songs and listen to the music. i pictured the man's fingers plucking away at the strings of his guitar, the drummer tapping away at cymbals and keeping a steady beat, while notes sprung up from the piano or from saxophones and the trumpet as the bass man thumped at his own instrument. it was fascinating to hear all of the instruments coming together to make the music.

after a 30-minute set by the opening act, a good guy from seattle wo played his guitar, king's band started up after a 30-minute intermission. they jazzed it up, each taking a turn playing a short solo. it was like a jam session -- but without king.

his chair was set up, though. he doesn't play standing up anymore. he has diabetes (or diabetus, if you're wilford brimley), bad knees and various other health issues.

he was introduced and received a standing ovation. then he set to jam. he interspersed anecdotes in between songs. he aplogized for rattling on, but the crowd loved it. i think if it had been any other act talking away, the crowd wouldn't have been so forgiving. but the man's earned his respect.

i had never been to a blues show before. it's different than a rock show, not quite as loud and the crowd's not going berzerk. it's not quite as rowdy as a country show (no cowboy hats), either. maybe it the word i'm lookign for is intimate. sure the hall was small, mabe a tad over 1,000 people, but you could hear people yelling out comments between songs, you could feel the vibe there, something was going on with the audience and king. it was almost as if you could reach out and touch the man, shake his hand and say , " good show, man. you can really play that guitar."

i'm all the better for having gone to the show. it was an experience, something different and i (we) can scratch off king off of the list of people we'd like to see live. thanks for the invite D.