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July 16, 2010

Concert review: B.B. King at Pier Six Pavilion

bb king makes a funny, frowny facey

Sun reporter Chris Kaltenbach saw B.B. King perform at Pier Six Pavilion last night. Here are his thoughts:

It's not every day you get to watch the Statue of Liberty walk onstage, but that's what it felt like watching blues legend B.B. King enter Pier 6 Pavilion last night.

At age 84, the man's best performing days are clearly behind him. But watching and hearing a legend is an opportunity not to be missed, and on that level alone, King did not disappoint ...

On a sweltering Baltimore night, the man proved that he can still make his guitar, the wondrous Lucille, moan like nobody's business, that he can still growl in that way that all blues (and many rock) singers have been trying to imitate for decades, and that he can still win over a crowd.

True, his repertoire for the evening included some odd choices: "You are My Sunshine" and "Let the Good Times Roll," but no "Caledonia" and only one stanza of "The Thrill is Gone." But sitting in a chair at the front of the stage, King was clearly in good spirits, even while confessing that he would be going to the doctor's next week and explaining about an ear problem that clearly irritated him.

bb king knows how to have a good time.King's band, introduced as "the legendary B.B. King Blues Band," lived up to every inch of its billing, laying down some serious blues rhythms and even jazzing things up on occasion.

King has taught generations of guitarists how to play, and as one of the last surviving links to the blues that gave birth to rock and roll, he's earned every ounce of veneration he gets. Sure, it would have been nice to hear him roar through a longer playlist, to hear him coax some extended blues riffs from Lucille.

But a B.B. King experience is still a B.B. King experience, and listening to him play the blues  these days would be akin to hearing Thomas Jefferson expound on democracy. There's nothing like sitting at the feet of a master, someone who really knows of what he speaks.

King had to be a happy man before the show, provided he was backstage to hear his opening act, Promise of the Real. Fronted by Lukas Nelson, Willie's son, the band played a scabrous 40-minute set, complete with Nelson even playing the guitar with his teeth for a while. Yeah, every guitarist wants to make like Jimi Hendrix, but Nelson looked and sounded great while doing it, pounding out vibrant blues/rock riffs with propulsive flair. Playing with energy, style and a touch of old-style sass, Nelson and his band had the audience on its feet by the end of their set.

See B.B. King concert pictures.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Christopher T. Assaf)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:58 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Concert reviews


It felt like a tall, white woman with points on her head when BB King walked on stage?

It was awesome seeing him. Even at 84, he still commands the much deserved respect that he has earned through the years. It is a shame that the city ordinance regarding concerts having to be over by 10:00 at that venue forced him to end the show. My wife and I really wanted to hear so many more of his classics. Still, we got to see the King and his lovely queen, Lucille.

If you want to see him at his best, book a trip down to Indianola Mississippi for his annual homecoming concert. He plays the city park then heads to Club Ebony - one of the original blues clubs in the Delta.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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