It’s wise to temper expectations when going to see B.B. King in concert these days. Just one month shy of his 86th birthday, the blues legend kicked off a two-month U.S. tour in Henderson with a concert that was light on performance but heavy on personality. After his band warmed up the crowd up for 15 minutes, King was escorted to his chair onstage and gently handed his famous guitar, Lucille. He then spent another 10 minutes introducing his eight-man band and talking about his recent tours of Australia and Europe.
The long introduction set the tone for the show, in which King played the role of storyteller and comedian more than musician. His voice sounded powerful on “Key to the Highway” and “The Thrill Is Gone,” and Lucille provided sweet-sounding snippets throughout, but those moments were few and far in between. Instead, King spent most of the show spinning yarns about being scolded by his mother for looking at girls at church and hearing on TV that he had died. He only performed about seven songs during his hour onstage—including a horn-driven version of “When Love Comes to Town” that had King boogieing in his chair—but before completing any of them, he’d delve into yet another story while his band played in the background. It was still pleasant to spend an evening with one of history’s greatest bluesmen … while the opportunity still exists.