Concert Review: BB King @ Keswick in Philly (July 5th, 2010)
Due to various technical difficulties I haven't been as involved with the Soul Patrol lovefest called 'the mailing list'. I've seen some interesting topics and have been technically hamstrung as to my own participation.
At any rate, at a day late and a dollar short I'm here to review the B.B. King concert of July 5th, 2010 @ The Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa.. The Keswick is fast becoming the venue for seeing a concert featuring a wide, almost Ed Sullivanian array of artists.
The crowd, their antics and opinions often equal the main attraction for provocative ness and entertainment value. More about that later.
The opening act for Mr. King was a band named for it's leader: Lukas Nelson. The irony is not lost on me that as Willie Nelson's cousin, Lukas and band represent a new generation of blues. As representative of his family we all know how famously Willie loves to straddle that thinnest of lines that exists between bluegrass/C&W/Country-Rock and the blues and rhythm and blues.
Willie Nelson's recordings with Ray Charles are legendary and Ray himself made a short but prosperous living dabbling in C&W. Lukas Nelson did not disappoint as he and his four band mates (drums, percussion, bass and keys) tore through a set that was reminiscent of the Big Brother and the Holding Company/Elvin Bishop/Hot Tuna sort of sound as well as the percussive Latin tinged rhythms of Carlos Santana.
You see if you don't know now you know. ALL IS THE BLUES! Everything or mostly everything you hear and dig has some sort of connection no matter how oblique to the blues. The fact that Lukas Nelson learned his lessons well and applied his teachings appropriately with such a young group of cats indicates that there IS hope!
Now if some of my more melanin enhanced brethren could turn away from the pro-tools, vocoders, autotunes and other various 'perfect-beat providers' and pick up and instrument we might really see some hell raised but for now we have Lukas Nelson and band to provide for us the very best in diverse blues.
The main act Mr. B.B. King himself came on after a brief intermission. At 84 years old Mr. King eased onto the stage after the band- review-style- tore up a couple of unidentifiable but really funky tunes. At this point folk like B.B King, Herbie Hancock, Willie Nelson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin are slices of what is called Americana. They are icons and it really doesn't matter what they do, sing or perform as long as (thanks RuPaul) they don't fuck it up! Then y'all will talk about em endlessly.
This could easily be a Disney themed park as it could be Madame Tussaud's where people marvel and pay homage to their heroes and icons. The band was excellent but what could one expect? All of the above-mentioned acts as well as their contemporaries have the same. Mr. King sat down and played his ass off. End of story. The drummer as well as the rest of this orchestra minus strings gave him all of the support that was needed and then some. Family members abounded here and there inside of the band to remind you of the aforementioned hope that DOES exist if only minimally.
There was even an unplugged moment blues style where only the rhythm section got raw and lowdown and played some really nice down-home blues. When someone today thinks the blues they immediately think B.B. King FIRST. This is mostly because he is arguably the last living blues legend holding things down. He plays what folk stereotypically think of as the blues. Not as down and dirty as Mud or Willie or Wolf and em but we all know that one day he did. He has evolved his act so that the blues becomes more palatable and less introspective than it could be. If this man comes to your town please check him out so that you can say you actually were witness to the last but certainly not the least of Classic Black American musical genius, this time under the guise of the blues. He closed with The Thrill Is Gone (which went on for some 10 minutes or so and was kickin much ass)!
Blacks & Blues Sidebars (a few observations from the lobby)
Sidebar #1: A middle aged black woman mid to late 60's came out of the auditorium and was apparently waiting for her hubby. We inquired if she enjoyed the show. She scrunched up her face and reluctantly gave the comsi-comsa motion with her hands. Like she wanted to say yes but no.
At this point we asked what did she find that wasn't up to par and she said it might've been because she just saw Gladys Knight a few nights (no pun intended) ago at a casino in A.C. I then asked her if she knew B.B. King's discography as well as she knew Gladys Knight's since she felt that Ms. Knight evidently sang more. She replied 'no'. We both agreed that that might be a part of it. Now that I think of it I don't anything about B. B. King's music either.
Partially because like many black folk my age we avoided the blues like the plague and B.B. was no better than Hooker, Waters or Wolf. We all thought the blues was some sort of derogatory, backward or country post-slave-deep-south-Jim-Crow music. While it was to some degree it was and has been revealed to be so much more. I don't think I'm as bad as this lady because if I saw a list of his hits written down I'm sure I could identify them. However the point was not lost on me. We've got to educate, y'all that's all there is to it.
Sidebar #2: A middle aged white woman approached me at the Soul Patrol table and asked if Soul Patrol is going to come out and sign autographs etc. after the show. Never mind that the Soul Patrol band wasn't on the bill for the night, this woman swore she saw a band of that name arrive at Phila. International Airport earlier that day. (I didn't even know there was a Soul Patrol Band!) After much banter and explanation that no band of that name exists to my knowledge and that Listmeister and myself were certainly not part of it if it did, she asked what was Soul Patrol all about. I told her that Soul Patrol was all about Black Music past, present and into the future (i.e. it's influences, derivatives, spinoffs, progression, marketing and any and everything else you want to include under such a heading). Not completely satisfied with that she began to go away but before she did she turned to me and said that she don't care bout black, white, red or brown as it relates to music. There is no color-there's only blue (i.e. the blues). She then turned to my erstwhile cohort in all of this and began a similar diatribe but for him she concluded with:" black people got all of their musical influences from the Irish". Go figga.
Sidebar #3:. As we were breaking things down and preparing to get in the mugginess that is summer in the city, I spied what had to be one of the most beautiful young black women I've ever seen in my life. Black as the night that we were preparing to enter with skin silky smooth and an athletic build that was rivaled only by the likes of Serena Williams. She had two children in tow whom appeared to be around 10 and 8. The boy was the eldest and he proudly clutched one of the drummer's sticks. Apparently the youngun approached the stage after the show and the drummer (Tony Coleman), kind and magnanimous individual that he is gave my man a drumstick.
The boy's eyes were still twinkling with awe, respect and wonder. You see his mother MADE SURE that this lil slice of Americana that is Black Classical Music would NOT escape this town without her children experiencing it all first hand. This woman realized that this musical giant may not ever pass this way again and the importance and significance of it all MUST be impressed upon these two lil black babies! Besides if memory serves me correctly, the boy is a budding pianist and takes lessons and such to that effect. This gorgeous lady , whose kids were NOT Bebe's kids in the least let me know that the hope of which I lament about so sadly is alive and well in this lovely family and by dint of association our community. Birds of a feather.....
For a moment I'll suspend my 'hire a band' closing for one more poignant for the times in which we live.
To the Tea Party and all like-minded individuals:
"While you're taking America back, make sure you leave what don't belong to you!"
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