|January 05, 2013||SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE|
Photos By: Lexi Lewis
Record Label: UMe
Review By: Lexi Lewis
B.B. King – The King of Blues, Still On The Throne!
B.B. King appeared at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida on Saturday, January 5, 2013. The venue was packed to near capacity as I looked around at the audience. King’s opening act was Fingerstyle Acoustic Guitarist Shaun Hopper. For those of you who don’t know, Fingerstyle is the technique of playing guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails or picks attached to fingers as opposed to flatpicking (picking individual notes with a single plectrum, a flatpick).
Shaun was incredible! This particular style of playing isn’t something that is learned overnight by no means. Shaun has spent numerous years playing and perfecting his techniques while continuously learning along the way. He has many musical influences whose styles he’s learned from and adapted to create his own style which I’ll affectionately call “Hopper Style.” Once he began to play, the audience listened ever so intently; it was so quiet that you heard every single pluck he made on the guitar. Once Shaun really got into his groove, the audience was even more engaged. People were clapping and moving in their seats. He played timeless Steve Wonder tunes including the song "Overjoyed." He dedicated the song to his Mother who was in the audience. To our surprise, Tampa-based saxophonist Mike MacArthur joined Shaun on stage for this performance. The smooth sounds of Mike on sax and the precise guitar playing by Shaun made a rhythmic and melodious blend that was just right! The audience loved it.
Mike MacArthur is an accomplished saxophonist who is releasing a brand new Smooth Jazz CD on February 26, 2013 titled Feels Like Home.
While still in a slow paced mode, Shaun also played and sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven as I thought I heard an angel’s voice being projected from the stage. It was completely silent during the entire song; perhaps the rest of the audience was in disbelief that we were all possibly in heaven. Shaun Hopper’s delivery of Hallelujah was simply angelic. The roar of the crowd upon him finishing that beautiful song was absolutely overwhelming; some folks even gave him a standing ovation.
Shaun closed out his show with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. He encouraged and directed the audience to sing during the song which went over very well. It was familiar, it was fun and the audience sounded fantastic. At the end of the song, he drew the crowd to their feet for a well deserved and well earned standing ovation.
You can learn more about Shaun Hopper at www.shaunhopper.com.
It was time for the King of Blues to sit at his throne (the stage) and address the kingdom (the audience). The band came on stage and began to play before B.B. King graced the stage. They performed two musically flawless tunes that immediately infused the audience with a teasing energy that prepped them for B.B. King’s arrival. With the energy level high, King slowly and elegantly walked toward center stage with a smile while throwing guitar picks into the crowd. He carefully leaned toward the edge of the stage and tenderly handed a guitar pick to a little girl who appeared to be no more than nine years old. I hope she treasures that little gift for a lifetime as the vast majority of people can’t say The King of Blues personally handed them a guitar pick!
With his royal entrance over, he took the seat that was awaiting him at center stage, strapped on his guitar (Lucille) and began to speak while the band played background music. He told a story or two as well as an occasional word or two that made you laugh. Once he was done speaking, the legend began to play Lucille. Even at age 87, he doesn’t miss a beat musically or mentally. He’s quick, witty, poised and very funny during his performance. I had the pleasure of seeing him play at Ruth Eckerd Hall a number of years back and I must say that I remarked that his concert was one of the best concerts I’d ever attended at the time. I’m here to tell you, several years later, nothing has changed. His show continues to be one of the best I’ve ever seen. As a matter of fact, I loved his story telling style so much that I was honestly looking forward to him speaking during the show this time! His singing, playing and stories flowed very well.
While B.B. King played, he touched his fans so much that the occasional “I love you” was heard from various fans in the audience. At one point, a fan screamed “I love you” during a quiet moment as he told a story. He heard it, of course, and said “I don’t if you’re trying to make me feel good or what but if you are, thank you.” I think if I had enough nerve, I would have shouted that too because I can relate to the fact that people fall in love with the music and its lyrics and when the artist you admire so much is an earshot away, you want to and can’t help but express yourself to them because of the profound effect their music has had in your life.
One of the highlights of the night, for me, was when he sang The Thrill Is Gone. His voice is as pure and strong as it ever has been. He really brought Lucille to life during that song and when she spoke, we all listened. He went on to play more favorites and then closed the show. The crowd showed its appreciation for B.B. King with yet another standing ovation that night.
B.B. King is still touring at the age of 87! I guess his music keeps him young and his love for music drives him to keep reaching out to his fans by continuing to grace stages all over the world. Your highness, I’ll be waiting here in Clearwater, Florida for your return and I guarantee I won’t be waiting alone!
Visit B.B. King website at: www.bbking.com.
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