Current Issue Details

Buy Current Issue

Reviews > CDs

Published: 2012/03/21
by Brian Robbins

B.B. King
Live At The Royal Albert Hall 2011

Shout! Factory

Yep, B.B. King turned 86 this past September – there’s no denying that. And it’s true that he does his live shows seated these days; diabetes and bad knees have taken their toll on those 86-year-old legs.

But when the man digs into a song, the years just fall away.

Take for instance the newly-released Live At The Royal Albert Hall 2011 album. For the first few tunes (before some heavy-hitter guests join him on stage) it’s just B.B., his Gibson, and his killer band – and there’s plenty to love.

Never one to play one more note than is necessary to get the job done, King has built a picking career around dead-nuts-on phrasing and a “how does he do that?” vibrato. And here’s the deal: the legs might be tired, but the fingers are still powerful. Over the ten cuts from this June 2011 performance, he doles out little dollops of sweetness; single notes that flutter and sting; doublestops that bark and growl.

And the voice is still strong, as well – be it the slow draw-off-and-let-fly soul of “I Need You So” or the funk of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”, B.B. King can still get the job done.

You need to remember (and appreciate) that King comes from the era of the frontman as bandleader: when he calls for the keyboards to take a solo or tells the band to “Bring it down!”, well, that’s what he wants them to do right then and there. Might not have been that way the last show; might not be that way the next one; but that’s okay – as long they’re listening to the big man out front, it’ll all be just fine. Between his relaxed stage manner, his humor, and his grace toward his guests, King manages to turn the Royal Albert Hall into a cozy Blues-&-BBQ joint for the night.

And what about those guests, you ask? Mick Hucknall (Simply Red and the reunited Faces) knows he’s in the presence of greatness, contributing a few vocals now and then, but never pressing the matter. Guitar man Slash knows his place, as well – his playing for the evening is nothing but tasteful, with a pure and sweet tone. At times, the Stones’ Ronnie Wood gets almost lost in the shuffle – a tribute to the fact that, at this point in his career, he feels no need to grandstand in a jam situation.

The sweethearts of this rodeo are Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. They come out on their own before the rest of the gang to do a couple of tunes with B.B. and those are some of the sweetest moments of the album. King coaxes Trucks into taking several breaks on “Rock Me Baby”; he flirts with Tedeschi on the vocal (“There’s a lot of spice there, huh?” he asks the crowd); he pushes the two of them to go Telecaster-to-SG before the song is over. “You Are My Sunshine” feels a little tentative at first, but once the tune gets its legs, it develops into a gospel rave-up with B.B. and Trucks swapping licks back and forth.

All in all, Live At The Royal Albert Hall 2011 is a wonderful example of an old master who is still young at heart, doing what he loves just because he loves doing it.


There is 1 comment associated with this post

Urieel April 22, 2012, 08:23:55

Mitch,You’re advancing the oerthy of Permanent Revolution as proof against my historical evidence? The problem with theories is that, well, they’re theoretical.“The basic idea of Trotsky’s oerthy is that in Russia the bourgeoisie would not carry out a thorough revolution which would institute political democracy and solve the land question. These measures were assumed to be essential to develop Russia economically. Therefore it was argued the future revolution must be led by the proletariat who would not only carry through the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution but would commence a struggle to surpass the bourgeois democratic revolution. How far the proletariat would be able to travel upon that road would depend upon the further course of events and not upon the designation of the revolution as Bourgeois Democratic . In this sense the revolution would be made permanent.”But in reality, the proletariats are far too busy eking out a living to engage in political oerthy and revolutionary planning. The bourgeoisie have the time, the intelligence and the social conscience to instigate a movement. Their outrage over the unfairness of the current system then trickles down to the proletariats. Once the worker class are properly enraged and well on the march to overthrowing the system, all the middle class have to do is sit back and wait. The workers will carry out the task of removing the standing authority so that the gentry can step in and take over. Once that happens, the former socially conscious bourgeois democrat becomes drunk with power and wealth, abuses the new system to their advantage and the whole process starts all over again.I’d say Russia/USSR has provided the perfect example of that age old phenomenon. Our own nation’s birth is another example. Who planned the revolution? Not the lowly sharecropper, tailor, or fisherman. It was the landed gentry who wanted to get rid of the authority above them so they could take over and create a new system that increased their own wealth and power. And who fought and died in that revolution? The peasants of course.You wrote, “I read Animal Farm a long time ago. More recently, I read Cattle Logic. With the exceptions of Connie Pilaf, Colwell, and Clowers, everyone else was white.”Interestingly, the Cattle Logic sequel features a new character who takes charge of Casa Blanca; Rock Amabo, who is black. Not all wars are instigated by rich white men as I’m sure many Africans can attest to. And as I’m sure your aware, not all wars have been instigated by men. But to reiterate my point; all wars have been instigated by opportunists with bad intentions. Nathan,You think that sometimes the people who plan the wars have good intentions and believe their cause to be noble and just. I say bull! The planners of wars have only greed and self-interest in mind. There’s no reason to go to war except to reap some personal benefit. That’s why Eisenhower warned us of the military-industrial complex. Profit motivated wars are the only kind of war there is.No one on this post has so far been able to prove otherwise, and the more they try, the more my point is born out.Now to your statement; “if you are in support of having soldiers to protect America from invasion then I bet you think every country should have this right. If so then you would support Iraqi’s killing the invading Americans.”I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say that I “support Iraqis killing Americans,” but yes, I believe every nation has a right to defend itself from invaders and occupiers whether by a standing army or civilian militia. As a Lib, I would forgo the army for the militia.The real tragedy of the Iraq war is that American soldiers were sent to invade a sovereign country for a supposedly noble cause (as the war planners always frame it) and they have been put in the horrible position of killing people who are just trying to defend themselves from foreign occupation, just as our people would do if we were invaded. The soldiers lose, the Iraqis lose. Who wins? Those who planned the war…as always.

Note: It may take a moment for your post to appear

(required) (required, not public)