BB King Show, 10-27-01

Review by Josh Chasin (Switch to

Let me start off with my wife's rather succint review:

"If you wanna be critical, " she said, "it really wasn't very good. But I loved it."

Love of the Common Man
I Don't Want to Tie You Down
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
These songs were all performed by Todd, solo, on acoustic guitar. He flubbed the intro to LOTCM-- stopped, apologized (or cursed, I forget which) and then started and got all the way through. He then explained that so far it had been a lovely tour, weather-wise, but that it had turned cold in NY and "My throat said, screw this." He was not in good voice all night, and struggled mightily to hit the frequent highs. Although, as my wife again noted, like Johnny Carson he manages to make these shortcomings part of the show.

Cliche likewise was a bit rough-- a result of the vocal woes (you could tell he was battling a soar throat; even his speaking voice was in a low register all night). To make matters worse, there was a fan blowing cold air right at him, and he complained loudly about this most of the night, and during the parts of the songs where he didn't have to be standing at the mike, he would walk away to avoid it.

I Don't Want to Tie You Down was an early highlight, Todd bowing graciously to the smattering of applause among the connescenti who recognized the tune. It was a sweet and poignant delivery. Lysistrata made up in heart what it lacked in vocal chops; he says it is a song about getting laid, not about war, but that aint the way I heard the story from him on countless evenings all those years ago.

Hide Your Love Away, flubs and all, was a welcome close to this section of the show. (He introduced it by saying, "Did I leave anything out? Oh-- yeah." And proceeded to play it.)

At one point, someone yelled out, "Todd is Godd." "We'll dispell that tonight," he replied.

Viking Song
Too Far Gone
Free Male and 21
This was the piano section. Viking Song was a bit strained, but to my surprise he nailed Compassion. Then Too Far Gone, a song I was calling for (and I was in front by the piano). It has indeed become extremely poignant, a song on this side of the curve that has a very different meaning than it did 23 years ago. And he sang the hell out of it. Always a favorite of mine, and now, perhaps, even more so.

Free, Male, and 21, despite his sweet dedication to Rex, remains for me a novelty song.

After this section of the show, he made some self-effacing comment, something like, I was hoping to wow you on the piano tonight, but-- oh well.

I Saw the Light
Can We Still Be Friends
It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference
This section saw Jesse join Todd and the shaker on stage for bossa nova renditions, accompanied-- I contend, unnecessarily-- by the backing tracks from the actual album (Todd introduced the mp3 player as "the band.") It was-- well, exactly like the album, except Todd and Jesse were doing their parts live, and there weren't backing vocals. Although Jesse did add some nice flourishes, especially as songs wound down.
Believe in Me
Never Never Land
Lady Madonna
This brief stretch was the highlight of the night.

Todd had also been complaining about all the water he was drinking, and that "he was gonna piss himself." Finally he dashed off the stage to use the facilities, asking Jesse to entertain us in the interim. And Jesse immediately launched into a bossa nova-ish, solo acoustic instrumental version of Believe In Me, off of Runt. I don't know that most of the crowd recognized the song, but it was beautiful, and spot on, and impromptu, and cool. I am convinced that Jesse knows Todd's catalog better than Todd does.

Todd returned to the stage, and apparently now the annoying fan was off. He looked to Jesse and said, "your choice", and Jesse began Mated. And it was the most tender, heartfelt, moving version of the song I've ever heard, just the two of them. this is a song that I've always heard is about Todd's relationship with his fans; his gestures during the song-- at himself, at the crowd when he sang "Why else would you be here tight now, and you know you'll still be here tomorrow"-- underscored this point. he put it over vocally by using a less is more approach, singing softly, gently, and right from the heart. If I'd heard just this song, it would have been a good night.

Then Never Never Land, also just the two of them, and Lady Madonna.The whole little four song interlude was magnificant.

Hello Its Me
Two more Twist songs, with the invisible band.  Fidelity was nice.
Love In Action
The electric guitar section. LIA was nicely done, and during Slut Todd noted, "Jesse the musicologist tells me there should be another solo here. I can't remember the damn song." But it was rocking good fun.
One World
The last song of the set, and you'd think I was kidding if I told you it took Todd three-- count 'em, three-- guitars to get through this number. His first ax "distracted him" becasuse it had a flag dangling from it; he put it down mid-song, grabbed Jesse's, and began the song where he left off, in a slow, falsetto version. Then Jesse brought out another acoustic for him, and Todd switched to THAT one for the end of the song. I hate to brag, but I can play this song, and I rarely require more than the one guitar to get through it.
Love is the Answer
I Want You
A Dream Goes On Forever
These were the encores. The first two were with invisible band. The invisible band started ADGOF, but Todd shooed them off stage and gestured to Jesse to play it himself. It was a nice end to the show, with Todd walking off a la Tiki tour, and Jesse finishing up with a flourish and a brief reprise of the song.

It was a Saturday night in New York, in a sold-out room full of people that loved him. And he basked in that love and shone it back. I don't care what happened in Allentown (where a show was poorly received this past week), there was no way such a fiasco was going to go down in New York. Todd said there was nothing heroic in his showing up; he booked the gig pre-September 11, and he was touring because the IRS is on his tail. And he said a bit about how he does not welcome or embrace the mantle of hero.

Jesse periodically turned his guitar over to show the sticker he had emblazoned on the back: "We love our customers" (with a heart instead of the word "love.")

It was the usual sloppy show, and I thought some of the songs with the pre-recorded backing tracks suffered from them. These kareoke type exercizes have Todd and Jesse "playing along", whereas the numbers they did as a duo had them actually making the music, which was to these ears more magical.

But when he shows up and puts his heart out there on the line, when the show has highlights like I Don't Want to Tie You Down and Believe in Me and Mated and Too Far Gone (and even Love of the Common Man)-- well, I managed on this night to walk away happy, smiling. My wife, who loves the With a Twist album, was (her words) in hog heaven.

If you want to be critical, I guess she was right-- it was problematic, full of fits and starts. But damn if I didn't dig it.

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10/27/2001 - B.B.Kings - New York, NY

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