"Electrifying," "Magnetic," "Memorable" are just some of the words that people used to describe an evening with B.B. King at the House of Blues in Dallas. His sophisticated style of soul-wrenching guitar playing inspired tears of joy and calls of "Amen," "Preach it, brother" and "Oh Lord, I'm coming home." But the shout heard most often was, "We love you, B.B."
Gently caressing Lucille's neck, the King of Blues played a handful of his more soulful hits, turning the House into the Church of Blues, with each bend of Lucille's strings evoking another note of his evening prayer. The crowd moved to his rhythm as he played hits such as "I Need You So," "Everyday I Have the Blues" and "Please Send Me Someone To Love."
At 87, B.B. King has been playing music for more than six decades, inspiring guitar legends Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He's a Grammy Award winning artist, and Rolling Stone magazine ranks him in the top 10 of their 100 Greatest Guitarists.
In between song sets, the King fiddled with a lick that sounded hauntingly familiar. He closed his eyes picked a note, then another note, slightly bending the strings. Soon the band was following his lead as he sang, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine." Before long, the crowd was singing the words to one of Louisiana's official state songs. It was surreal and inspiring.
Halfway through the evening, blues guitarist Lucky Peterson stepped from behind the patched curtains that draped the stage and joined the the King's choir, dazzling the crowd with his chops. His fingers blazed across the blues scale. Hair caught fire across the venue.
As the night crept toward the midnight hour, King conversed with crowd, told jokes about his band members, most of whom are family and took us on a blues pilgrimage that is sure to reverberate through our minds for years to come.
In the end, King didn't want to relinquish his reign on the crowd. His handlers stood patiently by his side as he showered us with signature guitar picks and gold bracelets. When King held out his hand for more gifts to bestow, his handlers shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders. He turned, raised his fist to the crowd and smiled. Defiant until the end.
God bless you, B.B. King.