Not necessarily a review by Fred Rudofsky
In a music discussion, many would likely equate a reference to “The King” to Elvis Presley.
Not I – ever since I was in high school, “The King” has been the King of the Blues, B.B. King, my favorite musician. I own dozens of his albums; posters of him deck the walls of my home and classroom. I have seen B.B. King in concert over 20 times. I have even met him four times; once, I even got to talk with King for a half hour on his tour bus about music, women, radio, education and the state of the world. When I told him after a show in Albany that an excerpt from his autobiography, “Blues All Around Me,” had been featured on a recent NYS Comprehensive English Regents Exam, King was stunned, but quickly joked to one of his bandmates, “Hey, did New York State pay me for that?”
Yet I cannot help invoking Elvis when I think of B.B. King’s erratic, disquieting performance at the Palace Theatre last Thurday night (April 17). It was as tragic as a scene from “King Lear,” as surreal as dialogue from an Ionesco play or images in a Fellini film. It was the blues without the catharsis of the blues. It made me think of how Elvis must have been in twilight of his career, the nadir of his health, which was sadly the case in his early 40s. Presley was surrounded by handlers who did not have his well being and dignity at the top of their priorities. At 88, with over 15,000 performances in his career, the King of the Blues deserves better, too.
I wonder, “Who is taking care of the King?”