Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Riding with the King and Slowhand

(I apologize for this being a few days late, I've been busy.)

Last Friday night, on May 2, 2008, my dad and I continued what has become a father-son tradition: we saw blues legend BB King live for the fourth time in the last seven years. Some fathers and sons go fishing, we go to blues concerts. Whereas most of the times we've seen the great Riley B. King have been in Melbourne, FL, this year my dad came to the west coast of Florida and we took the hour drive from Tampa to the performance hall in Clearwater.

While most people his age and most his blues peers are either dead or generally localized, the 82-year old BB King and his eight man band have shown no signs of slowing down, performing well over a hundred shows every year. On Friday night, King and his crew rocked the crowd for over two hours playing many his greatest hits as well as numerous blues standards. Between songs, as could be expected by a guy his age, BB caught his breath and paced himself with jokes and anecdotes of blues glory days gone by. Although I've seen him four times in the last seven years, and six times overall, BB King remains one of my favorite live performers and I highly recommend him to anyone who enjoys live music.

Opening for King was a young Tampa saxophonist named BK Jackson. Jackson, a 16-year old musical wunderkind, was without a doubt a pleasant surprise. I was very impressed with the young sax man's performance mannerisms and his command of the audience, especially considering their unfamiliarity with his work. After hearing him, I am sure I won't be the only person from the show picking up his album when it is released.

Although seeing BB King normally makes for a great weekend, my dad and I decided to push our live music jones one step further and went to see Eric Clapton live in Tampa on Saturday night, May 3, 2008.

Whereas seeing BB King has become almost an exercise in familiarity, I, unlike my dad, had never attended an Eric Clapton concert. Nor had either of us ever seen Clapton's opening act, Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Unlike the BK Jackson surprise however, I was at least familiar with Clapton and Randolph's work prior to the show. So I knew a little bit of what to expect.

Little did I know both performers would rock my proverbial socks off.

For those who have never heard slide-guitarist (and fellow Mets fan!) Robert Randolph, imagine sort of a modern gospel-tinged Sly and the Family Stone, with a little Allman Brothers thrown in for good measure. Just some great feel-good, get-down-with-your-bad-self groovin' tunes. And he played a little "Voodoo Child", which is never a bad thing.

As for Eric Clapton, what else can be said but "Clapton is God"?

Clapton put on an absolutely flawless, amazing performance, showcasing many of the skills that have made him one of the greatest guitar players of all time. On Saturday night, Clapton wowed the audience with numerous blues covers, several acoustic jams, and most of his greatest hits, including "Layla", "Crossroads" (which included a cameo by Robert Randolph), and "Cocaine". (Side question: for someone who recovered from drug addiction, I wonder if Clapton still attaches any emotional feeling to the lyrics of "Cocaine"? Or does he just sing the words because the audience wants to hear it?)

Overall, this past weekend definitely stands as one of the best live music weekends I've had in a long time. And although I can't speak for him, I'm pretty sure my dad enjoyed himself as well.


Eddie Santiago said...

Thanks for mentioning Robert Randolph in your post. He is truly talented. You can defintely see the influence of Sly Stone. I write about this and more in my book about Sly. You can check it out at Amazon.com or Lulu.com.

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