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duaneiac

B.B. King: Is The Thrill Gone?

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Apparently B.B. King had an "off night" (to say the least) at a show in St. Louis last week.

Here's a review of that concert which seems to have generated a lot of internet chatter:

http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/music/reviews/b-b-king-at-the-peabody-how-things-just-got/article_59ade8eb-c431-55de-a138-66925bb8de3b.html

After a capable run-through of “Rock Me Baby,” he played “You Are My Sunshine” and asked the crowd to sing along. The house lights came up and King began noticing individuals and waving to them. As the song went around again and again, nattering on for — and this is not a misprint — 15 minutes, audience members began to heckle, yelling out requests or simply calling for King to “play some music!” Some walked out.

Apparently today an apology has been issued on B.B. King's behalf for that performance:

"The combination of the rigors of the very long drive and high blood sugar due to his medication error resulted in a performance that did not match Mr. King's usual standard of excellence," reads the statement, which was issued on behalf of King by the St. Louis venue. "Mr. King apologizes and humbly asks for the understanding of his fans."

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/b-b-king-apologizes-st-louis-fans-erratic-show-article-1.1758725

It's been maybe 15 years isnce I last saw B.B. King perform, but already then he was starting to slow down. A guy I worked with saw him in concert last year along with Peter Frampton and said B.B. King played very little guitar and most of the show was about Peter Frampton.

Has any one else seen B.B. King perform recently? Can this be chalked up to an "off night"? The last CD I heard from him was really quite disappointing, hearing how his singing voice has deteriorated so much.

Does there come a time when a performer needs to call it a day or should they continue to perform as long as there is an audience willing to pay to see them?

Edited by duaneiac

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I saw him a couple of years ago and he mostly talked. It seemed like he was past the point at which his concerts were enjoyable. He hardly played any guitar. I wouldn't go again.

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Does there come a time when a performer needs to call it a day or should they continue to perform as long as there is an audience willing to pay to see them?

I understand where this question is coming from aesthetically but - we don't know what BB's finances are like, we don't know what his medical costs are. There have been enough posts here about elderly musicians in penury...

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Unless things have changed since his autobiography, or he didn't tell the truth then, B.B. should have no financial reason for continuing to work. But his book made it clear how he pretty much lives to perform. So I've always presumed that is the reason he is still out there, albeit on a much less extensive schedule than he used to have. I've known for a while that his shows have featured less singing and more talking but I hadn't heard of him having such a bad night. Hopefully this was a medicine-related problem as claimed. I've seen him a couple of times in Boca Raton since 2000, both times were before the point that his speaking took up more and more of his sets. The shows I saw were great - but I seriously doubt I'd pay to see him again. Not because I suspect I'll feel ripped off, but because tickets weren't cheap then and I am sure they are no better now. I'd still consider an hour spent in his presence to be a blessing.

And I have to say that I can't for the life of me imagine someone running down One Kind Favor. If its the last CD he records its a fantastic way to end a recording career.

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Unless things have changed since his autobiography, or he didn't tell the truth then, B.B. should have no financial reason for continuing to work. But his book made it clear how he pretty much lives to perform. So I've always presumed that is the reason he is still out there, albeit on a much less extensive schedule than he used to have. I've known for a while that his shows have featured less singing and more talking but I hadn't heard of him having such a bad night. Hopefully this was a medicine-related problem as claimed. I've seen him a couple of times in Boca Raton since 2000, both times were before the point that his speaking took up more and more of his sets. The shows I saw were great - but I seriously doubt I'd pay to see him again. Not because I suspect I'll feel ripped off, but because tickets weren't cheap then and I am sure they are no better now. I'd still consider an hour spent in his presence to be a blessing.

And I have to say that I can't for the life of me imagine someone running down One Kind Favor. If its the last CD he records its a fantastic way to end a recording career.

That's what I gathered from his autobio as well. His management team had handled his money well and were getting top price for his appearances. This doesn't seem to be a Woody Herman kind of situatioon, where he is so much in debt that he literally cannot afford to retire. The licensing fees B.B. King must get from the B.B. King's Blues Clubs in NYC, LA, Las Vegas, etc. must be a pretty good chunk of change.

There are a lot of musicians / singers / performers who live to be on stage, in front of an audience. But at some point, as the deacades roll on and on, if they contiue to perform while their abilities continue to decline, don't they do their own legacy a disservice? Nancy Wilson retired last year and this year we have seen Toots Thielemans and Mose Allison both retire from performing.

It is a tough call, I know. I only saw Frank Sinatra once, around 1986, when he was certainly past his prime, but just being in the same venue as him was a thrill and his rendition of "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)" that night was one of the finest pieces of "performance art" I've ever witnessed. But certianly by the 1990's his performances, from what I've read, seemed to be more miss than hit and those final recordings, the "Duets" ones, are ghastly. Still, those "Duets" CDs sold like hot-cakes, so who am I to judge? He, of all people, certainly did not need the money at that point, so if he wanted to go on performing and pretty much embarrasing himself, who was going to say he couldn't / shouldn't?

Likewise, I only got to see Oscar Peterson play once, after his stroke. He wasn't the player he was before, but he was still damn good and again it was a thrill just to see a live performance by a living legend. Same with John Lee Hooker. I only saw him once, late in his career, and he let the band do most of the heavy work, but there was a brief time when he really got his hypnotic rhythm thing going and he had that audience spellbound.

An audience does need to make some allowances for older performers. But at some point, isn't it incumbent upon a performer (or those closest to him/her) to accept that the spirit may be willing, but the abilites are weakening. In the video, the St. Louis critics talked about Chuck Berry who apparently is still doing gigs around town there, with less than impressive results. Perhaps he needs the money, but who wouldn't rather remember him as the rock ' roll god he was rather than a shuffling old man?

Some performers can go on and on and really seem to defy the laws of aging. I saw Dave brubeck performe many times in his 70's and 80's and he always put on a good show. Same for Marian McPartland. I don't know how old Charles Brown was when he passed, but he was as fine a performer at the end of his life as he had ever been. Bob Dorough is in his 90's and still going strong.

And sorry, but One Kind Favor just did not do it for me. It just seemed tired and kind of sad to end a career on that note, like Ella Fitzgerald's last album

Edited by duaneiac

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I'd read this before. Sad news.

Actually there have beens scribes who (correctly or incorrectly) have pointed out that his LP "The Thrill is Gone" had rather a programmatic title because his albums of that time had already become heavily overproduced and his music by that time had lost a lot of its original impact - and that was in the early 70s!!

Am no expert on B.B. King's music (even less of his "later" days) so won't judge this but there seem to be some to whom B.B. King has been going downhill for 40 years!

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I'd read this before. Sad news.

Actually there have beens scribes who (correctly or incorrectly) have pointed out that his LP "The Thrill is Gone" had rather a programmatic title because his albums of that time had already become heavily overproduced and his music by that time had lost a lot of its original impact - and that was in the early 70s!!

Am no expert on B.B. King's music (even less of his "later" days) so won't judge this but there seem to be some to whom B.B. King has been going downhill for 40 years!

Yes, I'm sure there are always those who question the artisitc validity of the work made by a formerly semi-obscure artist who suddenly has become rich and famous. If the great unwashed masses can appreciate the artist's new work, then clearly it cannot be as pure and meaningful as it was when the artist was recognized only by the cognoscenti.

I love B.B. King's older music from the 1950's and early '60's. I love a lot of the music he made after his commercial breakthrough. For me, the last really good album was 1998's Blues On The Bayou.

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A friend of mine saw B.B. King live last summer and said that while he talked a little bit too much, when he played and sang it was quite memorable. So maybe he can still do it some nights.

I saw Bobby Blue Bland toward the end of his life. He didn't talk between songs, but his voice was a shadow of what it had been on his big records. Am I glad I saw him live? Overall, I am. I knew before I went to see him that it was not going to be like seeing him in the mid-1960s.

I like B.B.'s "One Kind Favor" album quite a lot. I have heard most of B.B. King's recorded output from the beginning. I think he had a recording resurgence in the late 1980s, which continued at least through the two studio albums released in 2000, "Riding With The King" (which I think has some genuinely exciting music on it), and "Makin' Love Is Good For You." I have not heard 2003's studio album "Reflections". I think that "One Kind Favor" is a sort of look back at rootsier blues, some of the blues which pre-dated B.B.'s career, and is quite interesting in that way.

"One Kind Favor" was released when he was 82. I can't think of any other major blues star who had recorded such a good album of new studio material at age 82. And then look at the Rolling Stones--they are just turning 70. If they could record a new studio album as good as "One Kind Favor" today, it would be thought of as a miracle.

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Unless

An audience does need to make some allowances for older performers. But at some point, isn't it incumbent upon a performer (or those closest to him/her) to accept that the spirit may be willing, but the abilites are weakening. In the video, the St. Louis critics talked about Chuck Berry who apparently is still doing gigs around town there, with less than impressive results. Perhaps he needs the money, but who wouldn't rather remember him as the rock ' roll god he was rather than a shuffling old man?

Agreed. Respectfully, it may be time for Mr. King to call it a great, long run and retire.

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I saw B.B & Bobby together about 5-6 years ago, and they were both obviously old and slowed down, and BB made a point to say that, yes, he would be sitting down all night, problem, officer? but, you know, those guys still carried an aura. I hope (probably in vain) that people for whom that was the only time to see either one of them went home thinking/feeling that they had seen BB King & Bobby Blue Bland, if you know what I mean, because, no, sorry, but you did see them, and those type of people, at least it's an idea of what was once going on Full Speed Ahead, Long Ago & Far Away. If you know that, then, yes, go see people like that even if all they do is stand there and drool a song, seriously, because that is a part of life too, and the name of this game IS life. Just know what it is at that point, okay?

Hell, I saw Willie Dixon in New Mexico when he was 67 or so and I figured he was almost dead then. He wasn't, but you coulda fooled me. But damn, that was Willie Dixon, you know? Not very many people are. In fact, most aren't. So just pay attention to what is left, not what is gone, however that ends up being.

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I like B.B.'s "One Kind Favor" album quite a lot. I have heard most of B.B. King's recorded output from the beginning. I think he had a recording resurgence in the late 1980s, which continued at least through the two studio albums released in 2000, "Riding With The King" (which I think has some genuinely exciting music on it), and "Makin' Love Is Good For You." I have not heard 2003's studio album "Reflections". I think that "One Kind Favor" is a sort of look back at rootsier blues, some of the blues which pre-dated B.B.'s career, and is quite interesting in that way.

"One Kind Favor" was released when he was 82. I can't think of any other major blues star who had recorded such a good album of new studio material at age 82. And then look at the Rolling Stones--they are just turning 70. If they could record a new studio album as good as "One Kind Favor" today, it would be thought of as a miracle.

Now that you mention it, I do recall liking Makin' Love Is Good For You. Maybe I need to listen to it again to decide how much I liked it; it may be the last album of his I liked unreservedly. I haven't heard the album with Eric Clapton and I think I checked out Reflections from the library once, but I don't recall much about it, so it must not have made too much of an impression on me. I have his tribute album to Louis Jordan, Let The Good Times Roll, and it's fun and fine for what it is. His Christmas album was okay, but his voice was definitely showing some wear and tear by that point.

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I like B.B.'s "One Kind Favor" album quite a lot. I have heard most of B.B. King's recorded output from the beginning. I think he had a recording resurgence in the late 1980s, which continued at least through the two studio albums released in 2000, "Riding With The King" (which I think has some genuinely exciting music on it), and "Makin' Love Is Good For You." I have not heard 2003's studio album "Reflections". I think that "One Kind Favor" is a sort of look back at rootsier blues, some of the blues which pre-dated B.B.'s career, and is quite interesting in that way.

"One Kind Favor" was released when he was 82. I can't think of any other major blues star who had recorded such a good album of new studio material at age 82. And then look at the Rolling Stones--they are just turning 70. If they could record a new studio album as good as "One Kind Favor" today, it would be thought of as a miracle.

Now that you mention it, I do recall liking Makin' Love Is Good For You. Maybe I need to listen to it again to decide how much I liked it; it may be the last album of his I liked unreservedly. I haven't heard the album with Eric Clapton and I think I checked out Reflections from the library once, but I don't recall much about it, so it must not have made too much of an impression on me. I have his tribute album to Louis Jordan, Let The Good Times Roll, and it's fun and fine for what it is. His Christmas album was okay, but his voice was definitely showing some wear and tear by that point.

I love Let the Good Times Roll, but then I like tribute albums generally, love Louis Jordan & BB, and it's BB with a Ray Charles horn section, so what's not to like? Not so big on One Kind Favour, but I got burned out on T-bone Burnette a long time ago....

Edited by danasgoodstuff

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I dunno - I SAW Joe Maneri live 5 times and he could play like Joe Maneri at least in 2002 at 75.

Plus I saw Benny Carter at 90 and he was almost as good as Al Grey was that day was at 72.

And both Joe and Benny sat down.

And not because Joe Maneri is just about my favorite musician of them all, I think it's very important to realize that seeing great musicians live is wonderous no matter how much of a legend to the general public or to some sort of self-appointed experts they might be.

So I'm only going if they can play as live music for me with the opportunities I have to see brilliant creative vibrant musicians - I'm going to see the brilliant, vibrant creative musicians first and foremost every single time.

Get Ready to Receive Yourself

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