While blues is known to be synonymous with low spirits and sadness, the audience at B.B. King’s concert at the Arlington Theatre downtown was anything but blue. Celebrating his 80th birthday, King was eager to tell stories and engage the audience in intimate conversation. During the performance, he covered the spectrum of his musical career from groupies to arthritic knees in one magical soiree.
The night started with an electrifying jam session, building up to King’s classy, almost timid, entrance on stage. Contrasting with the members of his band who were all clothed in black, King shone on stage in a flashy jacket. King’s inability to stand up and play went unnoticed because of his vivacious presence and incredible voice. The most admiring of his fans proved to be his band. This evident bond between King and his fellow musicians created a wonderful collaboration of talent on stage. The evening began with the truthful, “I Need You Baby,” a tale of personal heartache, was performed with such sincerity that the audience appeared frozen in awe.
Holding his hands on his heart, King could obviously feel the love radiating around the venue. Throughout the night, King was rewarded with standing ovations and the cheers of his listeners. “Lucille,” King’s affectionate name for his guitar, had a fan base as well – with one raise of her sleek body above King’s head, she was an instant crowd pleaser.
While the blues performance at times lacked defined structure and formality, King definitely was not lacking in conversation. His main topic of the evening was “supper” – King’s euphemism for sex. The Mississippian can make any rock star vice seem G-rated. Before singing “Ain’t Just Like a Woman,” he warned the men in the audience of the song’s impotent effects on women’s libidos. Fellas were warned to “get permission” to sing if they wanted “supper.” The men in the audience all shouted out “ain’t just like a woman.” This call-and-response pattern produced a lot of eye rolling and playful teasing by the females. King’s humor was a delightful addition to his deep, moving voice.
In order to repent for his sins and bad behavior, King played “I Love You So.” This crowd pleaser prompted lovers young and old to “slide closer” and embrace each other. To further set the mood, King performed the sexy “Rock Me Baby,” maintaining his jovial spirit by accompanying the song with a lecture on Viagra.
However, no romantic night would be complete without a cover of “You Are My Sunshine.” The audience eagerly recited this childhood tune, as they were taken into King’s playful world of music. Lips pursed, King then proceeded into “Key to the Highway” and “The Thrill is Gone.” Around this time, audience members had turned the Arlington into their own personal jazz club, inebriated by a mixture of blues and booze. Even when the music had subsided, the audience continued to groove on the dance floor. After the bands’ booty-shaking closing statements, King graciously stood up, kissed “Lucille,” and bowed. Thunderous claps of applause concluded an amazing evening of celebration. No one will ever be able to take this man’s sunshine away, for he will always be king.