Blues fans and music history buffs, there is a new live release from B.B. King worth taking note of. HPR's Dave Lawrence reviews “Live at the Royal Albert Hall 2011.”
The new CD and DVD release from the legendary bluesman documents how he continues to tour and record, despite his ever increasing age and the territorial realities that go along with it.
Early in the show, King makes it clear this night is not a usual concert, either. Not only is the venue a special place in and of itself, the blues master has toted along a few “surprises” as he alludes to as opening number “I Need You So” gets underway.
The guitar sound is classic BB, as he quietly and soulfully plays. His voice sounds a bit sleepy compared with the BB King of old, but he still gives the impression of being in command as the band grooves through “Key to the Highway,” and you feel like it’s the story of his own life so perfectly told to music.
The third track “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” brings out a story about the genesis of the song back when he was 84. It’s a humorous moment but it captures the essence of the longevity of his career.
On “All Over Again” the slow, slinky blues come with a thick guitar tone for a solo that drips with the kind of sound that made BB King the preeminent blues man of his generation. The authority that comes with his mean delivery of “Rock Me Baby” showed King in fine form for the evening, belting out the classic with soul and feel. Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks along with wife and blues musician Susan Tedeschi wail along with him on the extended track.
“You Are My Sunshine” also was a tasty treat to enjoy.
It paved the way for the heavy guest session ahead. “B.B. Jams with Guests” delivers over fifteen minutes of raw blues power as everyone from Rolling Stones’ Ron Wood to Guns N’ Roses’ Slash also join the fun, showcasing the multi-generational power of King’s legacy. “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Guess Who” add nice flavor but it’s the all-star “When The Saints Go Marching In” that seals the deal. Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall also shines on the set that both gives spotlight to BB and his interpretations on these blues classics at this point in his life, and equal presence to the collaborative element that the various guests add. All in all, it’s an action-packed exploration of blues and genuine reverence for one of the genre’s most important figures, bar none.