The collective age of the two performers at Hard Rock Live on Tuesday Night was 157 years. So you might think this concert was better suited for Florida's senior citizens -- but the blues knows no age.
Old and young, white and black -- all settled into the spacious Hard Rock Live arena around 8:30 p.m. as George "Buddy" Guy took the stage first alongside his five-piece band. Starting into "I'm not the Best" and Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man," Buddy's vocals powered over drum fills and soothed the crowd. He quickly changed tempos, coyly crooning about his Southern roots and a meeting with the gypsy on that cover..
Blues music also doesn't know about song breaks, and there's no need for a hook on each number. Thus Guy flowed throughout his 40 minutes on stage with little rest. Exchanging chops with his skilled electric keyboard player into "Can't be Satisfied," his honest lyrics and virtuoso acoustic guitar playing took the audience back to an easier time. Ending with "Skin Deep," the title track off his last album, he reminded everyone that "underneath we are all the same."
After a prolonged intermission and instrument change, B.B. King's big band started up and ran through a couple jazzier numbers, channeling '20s Harlem with their four-man horn section. Meanwhile B.B.'s famous guitar, Lucille, stood propped up nearby.
The proclaimed "King of the Blues" then slowly entered and sat down on a chair at the center of the stage; he explained he needed to sit on because of his diabetic condition. At age 84, though, it's a wonder this man is still touring and able to do all the traveling which that requires.
Thanking the Hollywood crowd for their hospitality and Florida for the nice weather, he then eased into the slow melodies of "I Need You" and "One More Kiss." His voice wasn't the strongest it's ever been, but it was still gritty like the Delta. Early in the set, he decided to introduce his band members, and instead of a quick name drop and solo, he continued to tell a story about each player. This unnecessarily slowed down the show, and at one point B.B. even joked, "I guess I better shut up," but didn't listen to his own advice.
Soon his talking subsided, though, and he let Lucille speak. He launched into "Let the Good Times Roll," with standout drummer Tony Coleman keeping fast pace throughout. B.B. then paid tribute to "The Originator" Bo Diddley, and recalled his performance with tourmate Guy and John Mayer to honor him at least year's Grammys. "I wasn't there this year, I don't think they like old blues singer," he added.
Then came some more solos and the poignant "See that My Grave is Kept Clean," before B.B was again giving commentary -- this time, about rap music's disrespect for women and notes about his producers. But the lights dimmed, and the twangs of "Key to the Highway" transported the arena to a smoky bar of days past, as the B.B. King experience extended way beyond the seniors' bed-times.
Personal Bias: I didn't hear any of my personal Buddy Guy favorites, like "Sweet Home Chicago," "Got My Eyes on You," and "Can't Quit you Baby." What happened, Bud?
Random Detail: Both Buddy and B.B stood over Persian-style carpet rugs as they played
By The Way: The B.B. King Blues Club in West Palm should host more touring acts.
-- Bernard Hacker