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Saturday, 05 April 2014 14:30

Concert review: B.B. King rules the blues, with openers Bottoms Up Blues Gang, at Peabody Opera House, Friday, April 4

B.B. King at Peabody Opera House B.B. King at Peabody Opera House Nate Burrell
Written by Brittany Tedder

The opening performance of St. Louis' Bottoms Up Blues Gang was simple, with only four musicians on stage: Kari Liston (vocalist), Jeremy Segel-Moss (guitarist), Adam Andrews (harmonica) and Dawn Weber (trumpet).

The songs performed were mostly blues covers with a few original songs thrown in. Andrews carried the songs with his harmonica solos, while Weber's trumpet solos consisted of long and pain-filled notes, bringing the blues music to life. Liston took us through each song with her smoky voice, one that sounded like she literally had the blues and Segel-Moss played a solid guitar rhythm in each song. Their opening set prepared the audience for the legendary B.B. King.

King earned his title as "King of the Blues" with his thriving voice and distinctive guitar-playing, using plenty of vibrato in each note that gives you chills from head to toe. At the age of 88, King is one of the last great bluesman who continues to tour and perform frequently, and that in itself is impressive and cause to celebrate. However, his concert Friday night at Peabody Opera House lacked the full range of blues that King created and that fans know and love.

After King's backup band played an introduction full of immaculate rhythms and exciting bass, guitar, trumpet and saxophone solos, King entered the stage with his beloved Gibson, "Lucille." The audience was very welcoming, giving him a standing ovation and adoring cheers.

After King introduced the band for 20 minutes, he finally played some classics like "Rock Me Baby," "The Thrill is Gone" and "How Blue Can You Get." He spent the majority of the performance drifting from the blues into the song "You Are My Sunshine."

After all these years, King hasn't lost his booming voice, but his trademark guitar style was missing his revolutionary string bends and his famous "butterfly" vibrato.

King stopped the band every few minutes so he could talk to the audience about love and lust. The audience was respectful, laughing at his jokes and clapping when appropriate, but after King went on and on, the audience showed frustration, shouting songs for King to play, like "Sweet Sixteen" and "Payin' the Cost to Be the Boss."

"You want me to play 'Payin' the Cost to Be the Boss'?" King asked and admitted, "I don't remember how that goes."

Although King only played five songs, the audience gave him a break and a standing ovation at the end the show. King may have lost his touch, but seeing him in person one last time was not only a thrill but an honor.

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