B.B. King live @RoyalAlbert Hall, London | Gig Review

Tuesday, June 28 marked what may very well be Mr. King’s last foray onto British soil. The 85 year old legend, said to have performed an average of 275 concerts per year ever since his number one hit ‘Three O’Clock Blues,’ enticed a medley of people to the Royal Albert Hall this week with just the promise of his presence.

Receiving a standing ovation from the packed out Royal Albert Hall (an awe inspiring sight in itself), B.B. King takes a seat, center stage, and gives the rest of the band as much attention as he himself received, introducing each one in turn. Fragile and cute (there is no other word to describe the frail old man sitting on the stage), from the first plucked string, and the first powerfully belted out note, it is easy to see why he is such a legend.

Drawing chuckles from the crowd with each comment about how old and forgetful he is… it is unfortunately very quickly that we can tell he’s not just saying it for the comedic factor. Rambling on and on in between the few songs the group manage to complete, an almost impatience settles for the beautiful music we were all so excited to hear.

After having announced at the beginning of the show that he had a few surprises up his sleeve, the audience is still not suitably prepared for what is to occur. First up were US singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi and her husband slide guitarist Derek Trucks. More cheers greeted Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall and guitarists Slash and Rolling Stone‘s Ronnie Wood. Having developed one of the world’s most readily identified guitar styles, indispensable components of rock guitarists vocabulary and what has become a model for thousands of players, the aura of respect on the stage is palpable.

Vibing off each other with mind boggling guitar riffs and incredible voices, the setting feels supremely intimate, despite the thousands of people and the high ceilinged, large venue. Leading into one of his greatest hits ‘The Thrill Is Gone,’ Slash removes his hat (perhaps the only time he’s ever been seen without it) and places it gently onto B.B. King’s head.

Gazing in genuine amazement at the talent sitting either side of him, no egos seem to be present. B.B.’s humanity is especially endearing, and it is only at moments where someone creeps onto the back of the stage and attempts to take an inconspicuous picture that the spell is broken and you are reminded that what you’re witnessing is a true legend at work.

Throwing out guitar picks to a fumble of hands and a second standing ovation, B.B. exits the stage. “Every song ends but is that any reason not to enjoy the music?” springs to mind, as we exit the venue. And it’s true; with a legend of a life, this is as good a way to leave it, as any.

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