What happens when you see B.B. King and Joe Bonamassa play live the same week? You have a bluesgasm.
B.B. King played at San Diego’s Balboa Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 16 during a sold out show where the lucky attendees witnessed musical history at its best – with the original King of the blues sounding as good than ever before.
At his 85 years of age, B.B. King is just as good of a comedian as he is a musician, “You know that I’m from Mississippi, right? You know that I carry a knife,” he jokingly told his drummer as they were both engaging in an entertaining call-and-response session. B.B. cleverly ended the musical exchange by holding a perpetual B flat, leaving the drummer without many options for a response. The crowd burst in laughter and clapped to their heart’s content.
The blues icon made a grand appearance with his Gibson ES 335, better known as “Lucille,” and played all-time favorites such as “Key to the Highway,” and “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman.” A sweet, sentimental moment arose when B.B. engaged ladies and gentlemen in the audience by singing “You Are My Sunshine,” first the ladies, then the men. And, of course the show couldn’t be complete without him playing “The Thrill is Gone.” Every single one of the atoms in my cells were electrified.
The funniest and most random moments during his concert were when he casually interrupted his band two bars into his songs to tell a life story, “I believe women are God’s greatest creation. In my 85 years, I’ve never seen an ugly woman,” he said. He’d then continue playing after sending smooches to the ladies in the crowd. Quite honestly, he can interrupt as much as he pleases; he’s earned his title quite well 😉
Seeing B.B. up-close and personal was absolutely surreal; it was like meeting the president, but better. It’s the same feeling you got when you nailed your first solo note-for-note, or when had your first kiss – good kiss, I should add – face melting, hands sweating and heart beating rapidly. It makes you want to go back for more, and that’s precisely what I did…
… Because just two days later, on Feb. 18, I saw B.B. King’s disciple, Joe Bonamassa, play live; same venue, same exhilarating feeling.
I’ve seen Bonamassa play live three times now, and he never ceases to amaze me. The only disappointing thing about his concert was that he opted to wear black dress shoes instead of his casual, purple Chucks – hey, I’m a girl, I notice these types of things. Ok, back to the serious stuff.
The 32-year-old bluesman marked his 22nd year of touring by kicking off the second official concert of his 2011 tour in San Diego. He started his concert promptly by playing an explosive 2-hour-long set consisting mainly of songs from his new album, Dust Bowl, which is set to be released on March 22. I’ve been following Joe for quite some time now, and let me just say that his ability to transcend styles without losing the essence of blues is simply astounding. Buy. His. Album.
As with B.B. King’s concert, comedic acts were also present during Bonamassa’s set, “I love you, man!,” exclaimed serious a serious Bonamassa enthusiast from afar. In response, Bonamassa said, “I wish you were a girl, man.” The audience inevitably laughed hard as the night took off into one of sublime, bluesy magic.
He mostly used his signature Les Paul Goldtop, but also played his Ernie Ball doubleneck and played a mind-blowing acoustic act. Talk about being versatile!
I lost count of how many times Joe switched guitars, but let’s just say that the quaint Balboa Theatre turned into an absolute madhouse when Bonamassa busted out his Flying V to play an insane medley of Just Got Paid and Dazed and Confused. The best way to describe it is with this video:
The most amazing thing about seeing Joe Bonamassa play two days after B.B. King was witnessing how the blues has evolved through time, and seeing how B.B. King’s influence is quite evident in Bonamassa’s playing. I didn’t read about this in a book, or see it on an instructional history video; I saw it with my very own eyes.
I should add that B.B. King discovered Joe Bonamassa at a very young age. After King heard him play, he said, “This kid’s potential is unbelievable. He hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface. He’s one of a kind.” Joe opened for B.B. King at the tender age of 12.
After experiencing a first-class blues juxtaposition, only one bad thing came about. I made a sad and alarming discovery: the blues doesn’t appeal to a younger segment of the population. I mean, either that, or kids just can’t afford to buy tickets, but I can say with confidence that 95% of the audience in both concerts were well over 40, despite it being an all-ages show.
To the adults, expose the young ones to the purest and most organic style of music where all rock is rooted in. And, to the kids, as B.B. King sings with Bonamassa in “Nightlife“, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, listen to the blues, listen to what they’re sayin’, oh please listen to the blues, listen to the blues they playin’.”