What seems like about 100 years ago, I got to go to my first stadium gig. Wembley Arena (not Wembley Stadium, cos it's not properly built yet & the roof keeps falling in). Yeah, so anyway, still a big venue. And luckily my seat was about halfway up the side, so I could just make out arms & legs. You could hear the noise alright though.
The gig opened with British blues guitarist of high renown, Mr Gary Moore – he of Parisienne Walkways and Still Got The Blues fame. I found myself a bit underwhelmed by him, largely because of the disconnect between what I thought he should be playing, and what he was actually playing. When I think Gary Moore, I think those keening guitar solos and deep concentration & introspection that accompanies. I walked in, however, on a jaunty 12 bar blues jam, with Moore bouncing around grinning like a cheshire cat. Good on the guy for enjoying it and all, but I just couldn't fully get into it. It'd be like going to see a Marilyn Manson gig to find that he'd decided randomly to play the back catalogue of The Wiggles. He did play Still Got The Blues, which effectively meant he'd played Parisienne Walkways, given that they're approximately the same song.
The second half however was all about Mr Blues himself though, B.B. King.
As you'd expect, his ensemble were excellent and after 2 masterful tunes from them, B.B. emerged to greet us (pictured, left). I was a little apprehensive, because you can tell the guy's getting on in years (he's 80 at the minute). He's not the most svelte figure around any more, and he's got problems with his knees so he had to play the gig from a chair at the front of the stage… but any doubt I had was washed away on the tide of the first guitar notes that emanated from that axe of his. Oooooooh yeah.
I can't properly describe it, but the real soul of his performance I think came from that voice, which told a story of its own. Whenever he sang, you knew – here was a guy who had the blues. Incredible bloke though… he'd stop every couple of songs and address the crowd, and it was quite obvious that in spite of being synonymous with the blues, he's got a lot he's happy about, and that enjoyment of life carried through into his performance, making it all the more of a buzz to watch. It's always inspirational to watch someone who's passionate about what they do enjoying themselves in an environment of their own creating, and this was a fine example of that.
I haven't said anything about the music yet – partially because I'm at a bit of a loss as to what most of them were. One of my favourites was Ain't That Just Like A Woman, which before singing he basically got permission from all of the ladies in the audience, and then playfully chastised the blokes when they didn't sing along as directed. Playful castigation of the crowd for not singing along was a recurring theme actually, because when he played When Love Comes To Town he made the band stop, and he explained to the crowd that this song had been especially written for him by Bono, and that we had to sing along. They'd sped up and rearranged it a lot, and it had more of a Blues Brothers Chigago sound to it. Brilliant.
He kept thanking the crowd for coming out, and wound up with a standing applause from the packed house to accompany what he said would be his last world tour. If anyone had ever worked to earn a standing ovation, it was this man.