King of Kings
The greatest living bluesman returns to the Golden State Theatre.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
There are a few blues guitarists who can do what B.B. King does, but he was the first, the pioneer, the ultimate entertainer and a spokesperson for the genre.
In last year’s documentary BB King: The Life of Riley, U2’s Bono describes something close to King’s musical soul when he shares the experience of rehearsing with the iconic bluesman in preparation for their 1989 tour together, which included a new song they collaborated on.
“When we were working on ‘When Love Comes to Town’ we were sitting around and we were showing [King] the chords and he said, ‘Gentlemen, gentlemen. I don’t do chords,’” Bono says. “He is, as Keith Richards describes, ‘a specialist.’”
King doesn’t do chords because he doesn’t need to, and isn’t that kind of artist: The big-bellied musician is a lead guitarist. Soul and passion pour into every note his fingers tap on his guitar Lucille’s fretboard – as if he were stroking the neck of a beautiful woman he was successfully seducing.
At 87 years old, King has noticeably slowed down – he sits in a chair during most of his performances and his shows aren’t nearly as long as they once were. But simply being in his presence – and watching him feel every sound his guitar utters – demonstrates what a living legend looks and sounds like.
“When I do eventually drop, I pray to God that it’ll happen in one of three ways,” King told The Guardian more than a decade ago. “Firstly, on stage or leaving the stage, then secondly in my sleep. And the third way? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.”
That same year King played only 200 shows, as opposed to his usual 300 nights per year, which he achieved consistently for more than 45 years. (He once played a record 340 shows in one year, and 58 countries another.) Death could be the only thing to get in the way of him performing forever.
B.B. KING performs at 8pm Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $69.50-$92.50. 297-2472.