Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Blue Can You Get?

Moving from Bangalore to Boulder was almost easy. The allure of women in bikinis, people following the lane system, high speed internet and the opportunity to see some great bands live in concert was too much to resist. Sadly, the mountains here leave no space for beaches, and so I've had to settle for a life without bikinis.

I missed Iron Maiden by 2 days in July 05, but made up for it recently. Little had I known 5 years ago that I'd go from "I'll piss on your crappy double-bass lacking mp3" to "man I like this record so much I'm going to buy it - even if it is inspired by Sesame street". Metal, rock, rock'n'roll, ambient/electronica and finally, the blues. As my musical tastes widened, my interest in B.B King grew. Long solos, crazy improvisations, incredible collaborations - there's nothing this man hadn't done. At one time, Lucille played in my headphones all day and night. I figured of all the concerts on my list - this would be my Shangri-La. He's been old for the last 10 years now, has retired multiple times, why would he strum his guitar in our vanilla state?

I was wrong. A week from my due return to the States after a month's vacation, King would play at the Red Rocks amphitheater. There was no way I could afford it, much less take someone else - but the kid said I should do what I wanted. It didn't take much after that, I had two seats bang in the center. I told my friends - it's an outdoor amphitheater, there's nothing but mountains behind the stage. And when the moon rises, the night resembles a Van Gough painting coming to life. I think I was spat on.

So come Aug. 25th, we were there. We missed a good bit of the concert, thanks to the kid's second day of classes, but made it. Buddy Guy was on stage, cheerful as usual. Al Green followed amidst much fanfare. I knew nothing of the two, and felt a little disconnected for most part. It didn't help that we were the youngest as far as the eye could see. Finally, after numerous sound checks and intros, the legend was wheeled in.

Wait, what? Yeah. Except for a few steps to his seat on the stage, King can't really walk that much. He hasn't lost any of his snark though, and there were plenty of jokes at the expense of his band. The familiar tunes and melodies started and the event I'd been waiting for, for so long, was finally underway. But it wasn't smooth sailing. King fumbled with his guitar, sounded scratchy and at one time completely missed the strings while strumming. The band covered for him admirably, but it was evident the night wasn't going as I'd anticipated.

He had the ladies in the amphitheater sing "Please don't take my sunshine away" for nearly 10 minutes out of the 20 minutes he was on stage. He finished off with "Thrill is gone" and there was no solo to be heard. We were out of the venue before he had ambled off-stage.

So what do I make out of all this? It's hard not be disappointed. Disappointed that the legend I'd heard from my music collection wasn't the same man on stage. But then again, I wasn't born when that man was in his prime. I was disappointed I didn't know enough of the genre to enjoy the concert as much as the folks around us did. The thrill sure is gone, Lucille.

It doesn't change my opinion of how great King is, but does make me wonder about fading away. We like Morrison, Joplin and Hendrix as the gods of Rock and roll - handsome, young, mysterious, explosive, unchanging. We grow older, but they stay young. They sound the same any day of the week, any time of the night. When musicians who don't retire stay in the limelight, they prove they're human just like the rest of us. It's just a sad drive back home.


Perakath said...

That's a bit rich, coming from Neil Young! Have you seen CSNY play recently?

Meatloaf is another prime example. My god. From 7:00 onwards:

(It's a great concert otherwise though.)

Rassles said...

But at the same time, I mean, BITCH YOU SAW BB KING. You win.

Thanatos said...

@Pera - Never into CSNY. Still haven't seen the vid. you posted. Will get on it!

@Rassles - True dat!