Sunday, June 2, 2013

B.B. King Concert Review Appleton PAC

This is going to be a hard one to write.

For the B.B. King concert, the Fox Valley came out and supported a music act in spades tonight.  While not a full house, we were a far cry from the 10% sold for Lyle Lovette at the PAC two years ago.  Good job, Wisconsin:

Unfortunately, we were not witness to a concert.  We were witness to a train wreck, and a long "thank you" session from the audience.  B.B. King is 87 years old.  He's not in good health from a physical standpoint, and given his interactions last night, appeared to be suffering from more than a moderate case of dementia.  From a purely performance standpoint, he should not have been on stage.  He's not well, and it was difficult to watch.

The eight-piece backing band was extremely talented, and tight as hell, which made up for a lot of sins.  They worked their rear ends off, and it was very interesting to see their interplay and the physical and musical cues they'd pass to determine where the song should go.  With B.B. forgetting words, sections, and even entire songs, it was tough duty, and they performed remarkably.

B.B. himself had flashes of greatness.  His voice was much stronger than I expected, but with his failing memory, he'd held back on a lot of singing.  Ditto much of the story-telling that was such a big part of his concerts for decades.  But his guitar playing was still very sound, and there were a couple notes that he needed to drop into sections that were nailed so perfect that they actually gave me chills.  The man, for some instances, still had it.

But the pace, flow, and execution was brutal.  It just was.  The most obvious example?  It took his handlers 20 minutes of really awkward time to get him off the stage at the end, and their body language belied a group that is doing their best with someone that is not well.

This was my fifth time seeing B.B. King live.  The fist time was in 1984 - nearly 30 years ago.  Think about that for a second.  In some ways I regret going to see him tonight.  I hated to see someone I admire so much struggling like he did.  But, if you got a last chance to see Arnold Palmer tee off, or see Gene Hackman act, wouldn't you do it?

And for B.B. King, I'd still do it.  I clearly remember sitting in a buddy's dorm room freshman year and listening to Indianola Mississippi Seeds for the very first time and thinking "where in the hell has this been my whole life?"  That and Sgt. Pepper were the two albums that freaked me out and completely changed the way I'd view and listen to music.  More directly, it changed my life and started a love affair with the blues that continues to this day.

I paid $200 for our two seats tonight.  Any other similar performance would have had me at the ticket window demanding my money back.  But this was B.B. King.  This was the King.  For the five concerts, untold albums, countless listens, and musical epiphany he provided me, it was worth it.  In fact, it was the least I could do.

Thanks, B.B.  Thanks for coming out and playing - I know it is hard on you.  And more than that, thank you for changing my life the way you did.  

Be well, and rest.  You've earned it.


  1. Thank you for describing your experience Last night (October 4, 2013), my husband and I went to Mystic Lake (in Minnesota) to see BB King. I've seen him perform three times over 30 years. The decline was very evident and the concert fell apart much as you describe above. Yes, it was hard to see, but he's very old and I still consider it an honor to see him. There aren't too many of these guys left, and I want to take every opportunity to see them while I still can.

    But the audience here was downright rude. One person in the front row audience left three or four times for some inexplicable reason (he had FRONT ROW CENTER SEATS! -- what could be so important that he would miss BB King?) and BB was distracted every time. Others stood up to leave or were heckling. BB was apologetic for cutting the show short and his people were standing close by, ready to bundle him off the stage.

    All in all, a sad evening.

  2. Thanks for posting up, Anonymous. It is sad that such a magnificent career end this way, but, my goodness, what a career! He absolutely is the King of the Blues.

  3. I left the concert last night wondering what the hell just happened. Not much music and a lot of jibberish. It will be a concert that I won't forget. Oct. 4, 2013

  4. Same in Minnesota last night. Brutal to witness. They cannot keep charging people for this. It's dishonest, and it's exploiting B.B.

    1. I so agree --and thei evidently has been going on for quite some time --I read a blog that was written last year. His handlers are riding the money out until the end and humiliating this great man before thousands of disappointed fans --I understand hes old --that wasnt the point. It was offensive that he was allowed to charge us $80 a piece to listen to the audience sing campfire songs

  5. I just saw BB this last Sunday Novermber 17th 2013 and it was easily the worst concert i have ever seen. To now know that he has done an entire tour charging this king of money makes me even more upset than I was leaving the show that night. Not only did he only play 3 songs (and by 3 I really mean he started playing and then either forgot the words or lost track of what he was doing. there was even one part of the show where he was asking his backup guitar player for the lyrics) but people in the audience talking to BB trying to ask him questions? This is a concert not a Q&A... Very disappointed that this is how I am going to remember BB King rather than the once great I used to know. Thank you to the tour manager and everybody else encouraging BB to continue to tour and diminish a legendary performers image.

  6. Just saw B. B. King in Eureka Springs, AR. He was terrible. I bet he did not play 9 minutes of music. The rest of the time his band played or he talked. I think the world of the man and what he has accomplished but his time has passed. He has too much entourage to support and at $125/ticket they just keep helping him out on stage and let him do whatever he feels like on that night. You could tell the band had no idea where he was going. Go see him if you want to hear him talk. Save your money if you want to hear him play and sing.

  7. I wish I had seen these reviews before I bought my tickets! The jam, on the fly sound check was awful before BB came out. It sounded like some of them were boozed up or just too old to put out!.....As for BB king I'm glad I saw him in person but it was a sad performance and obvious that he is declining. He had the band playing rock me baby for at least twenty minutes and often times he'd look back at his guitar player as to say I don't know what I'm doing or what are we doing....the band played all of about three songs.....very disappointing to say the least...his ticket sales are living on his name only at this point.......although observations like this will begin to get out and he will NEED to retire!......

  8. Wow, these reviews sound exactly what I saw last night at the House of Blues in Houston, TX. This concert was so disjointed with the rambling, talking to the crowd, jawing back and forth, BB looking over his shoulder for (support, lyrics, help??). The sing a long was depressing. I give credit to his band-professional and top notch and did their best to hold this together. A lot of people were leaving before this concert was over. BB needs to be put out to pasture.

  9. I saw BB about 10 years ago, then again about 1 year ago. Wow, what a difference! He's gone downhill. However, I believe it is HE who is keeping the show going, not his band or handlers. He has said, countless times, that he will do this till the day he dies. I believe him.


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