The 84-year-old King of Blues, wearing a multicolor dress shirt with black slacks, slurred his speech, cracked vibrato notes and talked excessively. King, who has battled diabetes for more than 30 years, appearing exhausted and sounded short of breath.
The impressive B.B. King Band began playing an instrumental set at 9:30 p.m., and King walked onto the stage to a roaring and cheering crowd a little over 10 minutes later. Seated on a chair, he addressed the crowd: “We’re on a tight schedule tonight, folks, so were going to run through the songs,” then continued, “All you lovers out there, this is for you,” and sang “I Need You So.” King’s voice was strained as he attempted to belt out the high notes.
As he began performing “You Are My Sunshine,” King flirted with women sitting in the front rows, saying, “I’m 84 years old and I’ve never seen an ugly woman.” The crowd sang the rest of the song, as King appeared to be stalling to kill more time off the clock.
Another seven minutes was used to explain the time constraints, and King showed the crowd a large clock and said, “Even." Lucille, his infamous guitar, was neglected, only being strummed mildly during songs. King played a few chords on the six remaining songs in the set, including “Rock Me Baby” and one stanza of his Grammy-winning hit, “The Thrill Is Gone.”
While King was disappointing, Buddy Guy stole the show with his Chicago-style blues and ferocious guitar playing. Opening the show with “Nobody Cares About Me Like My Guitar,” Guy made his Fender howl and moan. The 74-year-old was dressed in white pants, a black shirt and wore a white Kangol hat. Guy said, “S---, y’all already got me going,” and segued into “She’s Nineteen Years Old,” then paused and said, “I didn’t write this f---ing s---,” and the crowd responded with laughter.
In the infidelity-laced track “Slippin’ In,” Guy strummed his guitar, making it moan, holler and scream, captivating the crowd with his powerful vocal range. Showing a softer side to the blues, Guy also sang “Skin Deep,” a slow, soulful song that was dedicated to his mother, denouncing racism through the lyrics, bringing some fans to tears.
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Guy, arguable the best electric guitar player, performed a tribute to fellow bluesmen Albert King and John Lee Hooker, and Jimmy Hendrix. Closing with “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” Guy walked through the crowd and allowed fans help him strum his guitar.
Perhaps we witnessed the coronation of Guy entering the blues royal family, because it was clear King struggled with his performance due to his age and health.