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Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

The King!

As in B.B.

Another concert -- it has been a good year for watching legends. I have wanted to see B.B King in concert for decades (yes I am old enough to say that), but somehow he and I could never quite work out the timing.
Well I finally managed it, but it was a near thing. I had a train from Lyon to Antibes, and then a local back to Juan-les-Pins where the jazz festival is. I managed to get there about ten minutes after it started, and it is with humility that I admit that I was doubtless the only person at that concert geeky enough to have brought a laptop...

The King himself was a great, charismatic showman. He told jokes, told stories (of occasionally questionable taste), and laughed a lot. It goes without saying, of course, that the music was incredible as well. Even though he's eighty years old, he still has an industrial powerhouse of a blues voice. The first time he really started belting one out Lidia turned to me and said, "Wow! What a voice!" Let me repeat that he's been around for eighty years, and he's been doing this for sixty of them.

Unfortunately, age -- and the fact that this was the final concert of a 90-nation tour -- had caught up with him. He sat in a chair on the stage throughout the concert, and had his band playing the first twenty minutes without him. When he let go on the guitar and with that voice there were moments of lucid brilliance, but unfortunately they too often felt like the bursts of fading energy a sprinter puts out at the end of the race. Still... when you can sit by the Mediterranean and watch a legend rip out "Just Like a Woman" and "I Need You" and "When Love Comes to Town" you don't worry so much about the tiredness, or the chat-to-music ratio, or the fact that the band did a lot more of the playing than he did.

And in particular there were those brief efforts, those epiphanic moments, when the greatest living blues singer would throw his head back and give you a "Yeeeaaahhhhh" that shook the trees.

Let's hope he comes back next year, well-rested.

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Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

December 2011

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