|Photos by Steve Cohen|
"People always ask me when I'm going to retire," Buddy Guy told the audience at Saturday night's sold-out show. "Have you ever seen a blues cat retire? We don't. We just play till we drop."
The 73-year-old Guy's statement proved poignant as the concert at the Orpheum wore on; both he and the 84-year-old B.B. King joked about their old age but otherwise played with the charisma and proficiency of young blues cats. King stayed seated throughout his set (and was ushered onto the stage after a two-song introduction by his backing band, with his band mates carefully watching to make sure he made it safely to his seat), but once in his chair he flailed his arms, did jazz hands as he sang, and grinned ear to ear as he wailed away on his famously monikered electric guitar, Lucille.
"She got drunk last night," King quipped between songs when Lucille started producing a little static, shaking his head and stroking the shiny finish of his guitar. It was one of many periods of King's set when he broke up the playing to improvise lengthy periods of stage banter, which some might have found to be grating
but which others (myself included) found to be disarming
. During one particularly long rant, King touched on subjects as far reaching as his love of Minnesota's smooth, paved roads; his dismay over the sport of ice fishing (complete with a description of his own version of "fishing," which involves sitting on the shore with a quart of Jack Daniels and a six-pack of Bud); and his newfound discovery of the word "disrobing." At the end of the show, he apologized to the crowd for talking so much, but honestly it was almost just as much of a joy to see him ramble as it was to hear him play.
|Photo by Steve Cohen|
When he got around to playing, he let his backing band do most of the heavy lifting ("If you play behind me, you've gotta be good --someone's gotta cover all my mistakes"), but he and Lucille still got in on plenty of the action. As someone who had never seen B.B. King before, I was amazed at the clarity of his guitar tone and the way it intermingled with his tender voice -- he would pinch his eyes shut while he played and then open them as wide as they would go, as if even he was awestruck by the work of his hands and vocal chords.