Friday, December 09, 2005

Dave Matthews Band: Live at Saratoga

by Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Six hundred twenty-two thousand Dave Matthews fans bought the group’s new CD, “Busted Stuff,” this week and it seemed as if every single one of them was in a car on the way to see the band perform at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday.

Under a haze of red lights, Matthews and company took to the stage.
Complemented nicely by LeRoi Moore’s tasteful saxophone licks, the group plunged bass-first into the lazy, funkified rhythms of their opener, “What Would You Say.”

For the next tune, “Song That Jane Likes,” it was violinist Boyd Tinsley’s turn to shine. Slicing through the thick sheets of rhythmic density, Tinsley’s electronic riffing was one of the musical highlights of the night.

Matthews sang, chanted and stretched his vocals wide enough to be welcomed into the big arms of the show’s sold-out crowd, which lapped up every wail, note and solo like hungry lemmings in a musical sea.

They sang along to “When The World Ends,” and nearly drowned the singer out altogether during “Crush” - with nearly 25,000 pairs of hands alternately pointing skyward, and then toward the earth to the soundtrack of Matthews’ key vocal segments:
Am I right side up - or upside down?”

The band was pumping on all cylinders.

“The show tonight is one of the best that I have seen by the band,” said Christine, who like many in attendance journeyed here for the pair of shows. “This is my 25th Dave Matthews concert, and this place (SPAC) is a great place to see a show,” she added. “It’s a real bonding experience,” said the young woman, alongside her brother Richard (who was silent but a pretty decent air-drummer). The pair made the trip from Bergen County, N.J.

“It’s my 13th or 14th time,” said Paula Efteriadis, who made the trip from Long Island with her friend Dorothy Kyriannis. “Last year we went to the Tweeter Center in New Jersey,” Efteriadis said, “and this show is much better,” said Efteriadis, before turning back to the action on the stage. She and her friend cupped their hands in unison and cried for their favorite, “Seek Up.”

And while they didn’t get that wish Sunday night, they did get a 15-song set plus an encore that featured about a quarter of material from the new CD.
The pavilion shook and shimmied as the crowd sang along to the sound pushed forward by bassist Stefan Lessard and accented throughout by virtuoso solos via reedman Moore and violinist Tinsley.

A large video screen inside showed the band from several angles, although from percussionist Carter Beauford’s seat, his appearance as a tiny dot at the bottom of the massive screen looked overwhelming at times.
As Matthews appeared on the screen, it looked like he was massaging the drummer’s skull- or at least administering periodical noogies to his head while strumming his acoustic guitar.

The smart ones began their journey well in advance of the 7 p.m. starting time, which also featured Venezuelan funksters Los Amigos Invisibles.
“Oh, I got here early,” said Albany resident John Foshee, who has attended previous DMB performances at the venue. “I liked the opening band,” he said about the Spanish-singing group, “although I didn’t understand a word they said.”

The sound actually got better as it streamed out of the pavilion to the nearly 20,000 people on the lawn. They were able to view the goings-on from the multiple video screens mounted on the exterior of the amphitheater.

On the lawn, undaunted by the distance, the fans roared and shouted. Amid the delicate drizzle and heavy mist of the night, a rolling cascade of cheers reached a crescendo several times throughout the performance, both from those in the seated interiors of the pavilion, and on the grassy lawn outside.

published in The Saratogian, July 30, 2002

Dave Matthews: Dude, was that you?

by Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Ever since the frigid spring morning when more than 100 die-hard fans braved frosty temperatures at the SPAC box office, they had been waiting for this weekend’s pair of shows by the Dave Matthews Band.

A little more than a decade ago, Dave Matthews, the bartender, was mixing drinks at Miller’s Bar in Charlottesville, Va.
One of his customers, keyboard player LeRoi Moore, introduced Matthews to drummer
Carter Beauford, who knew bassist Stefan Lessard. When the foursome recruited violinist Boyd Tinsley, the lineup of the Dave Matthews Band was complete.

The switchboard at The Saratogian lit up all Wednesday afternoon. It was, coincidentally, the first day of track season, as well. I picked up one of the calls coming into the newsroom. This is how that conversation went.

“Guess who I just ran into at the golf course?” the caller said.
“Uh, I dunno,” I said.
“No, really, go on and guess,” said the voice on the other end.
“Okay, um -- Elvis?” I said.
“No dude, Dave Matthews. Can you believe it? Dave Matthews is in town shooting 18 holes.”

A half-hour later another call, a different voice.

“Hey guess who I just ran into at the racetrack?” the caller said.
“Who?” I said.
“No, you gotta guess.”
(What is it with these people?)
“I dunno, Elvis?” I said.
“Elvis? Elvis is dead, man. Dave Matthews, you know, the rock star.”

It seems if there isn’t fire, at least there is smoke.
For the remainder of the day, in fact, there were several calls that reported Dave Matthews spottings everywhere.

He was eating a falafel at Esperanto.
He was buying strings at Saratoga Guitar.
If the stories were to be believed, he was alternately riding the Carousel in Congress Park, sipping Ethiopian blend at Starbucks and riding The Comet at The Great Escape - and that was only in the afternoon.

By nightfall, there were Dave spottings at the New Music Night at Caffe Lena, in the audience at Skidmore listening to author Rick Moody read from his works, and sitting in a red convertible at the Malta Drive-In during the screening of the feature film “Scooby Doo.”

A quick check of the band’s tour schedule showed a performance at Boston’s Tweeter Center the night before, and a Hartford date on Friday, so the timing seemed a little bit strange. Especially with a pair of shows - tonight and Monday slated for Saratoga. But hey, stranger things have happened.

A check of the area hotels yielded nothing out of the ordinary.
No police barricades.
No lines of tube-topped girls.
And no sign of television sets being hurled from hotel windows.
Even a check of the telephone listings was no help.

Of the six different Dave Matthews listed in the phone book, three had recorded messages whose nondistinct voices eliminated them as suspects; two denied any connection whatsoever, and one engaged in a conversation that - while proving he wasn’t the Dave Matthews in question - had an entertaining gift of gab. He also posed a question of his own.

“You media people are always looking for news tips, right?” he said.
“Well, you seem like a decent fella, so I’ll let you in on something I saw today,” he offered. “I was at the spring filling up my bottles with water, like I do every morning. I turn around, and who do you think is standing right behind me?”
“Let me guess,” I said.
By this time I knew the routine.
“It was Dave Matthews, wasn’t it?”
“No,” he said all crotchety all of a sudden.
“I’m Dave Matthews. The guy standing behind me was Elvis,” he said.
Then he hung up.

The Saratogian

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Allman Brothers Live at Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS - A crowd of 8,200 - at least half of whom lay claim to have attended
the band's legendary 1971 Fillmore Theater shows - kicked it back mellow at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Tuesday night, waiting for the Allman Brothers to take the stage.

Dean Martin (not that Dean Martin), came in from Saranac Lake for the show to attend his sixth Allman Brothers show. His friend Mark Calderone has a 30-year relationship with the band.

''I grew up on Long Island, and I've seen them a number of times,'' Calderone said.

Among the venues he's attended are San Francisco's Winterland and a childhood experience in New York City's East Village during the Nixon era.

''When I was a kid, my brother dragged me to their show at the Fillmore East.''

The SPAC crowd grooved to the easy tunes of concert opener, Glactic. The smooth N'Awlins jam band was joined by Allmans' bassist Oteil Burbridge.

''I come here every time the Allmans play,'' Neal Larkin of Lake George said. ''I've seen them about 30 times going back to the 1970s.''

Larkin was looking forward to the latest incarnation of the band that has broken apart a number of times, only to come together again.
It was young guitarist Derek Trucks (nephew of drummer Butch) that Larkin was most excited about. ''Derek Trucks is just phenomenal. He's a great guitar player. You don't even miss Dickey Betts,'' he said.

You can tell a lot about a crowd by the uniform it wears. This one was heavily adorned with
''Eat A Peach'' T-shirts, commemorating the band's release of 1972. A number of tie-dyed Ts, short-sleeves and jerseys prevailed, many with Allman Brothers or Grateful Dead logos embroidered into surreal designs.

The dimming of the house lights inside the pavilion was met by dozens of tiny flashlights pointed at the floor throughout the amphitheater. The band encourages people to record their concerts, and ''the tapers,'' as they are known, were providing their own light as they fiddled with knobs, set meters and record buttons, triggering microphones suspended on long poles.

''Ladies and Gentlemen, a Saratoga tradition - The Allman Brothers,'' a voice boomed in the darkness to introduce the stars.

A cloud filled with the sweet, strong smell of incense hung in the air as the band hit the stage with ''Ain't Wasting Time No More.''

Accompanied by multicolored images from an overhead video screen, the group launched into ''Statesboro Blues,'' while a montage of blues legends Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters appeared on the big onstage screen.

Gregg Allman growled out the verse with a deep, booming voice. His long locks were pulled back tightly into a single coil running down the center of his back, as he played from behind a set of keyboards.

Marc Quinones stood in the center of the drum riser, playing congas and flanked by a pair of
the band's founding members: drummers Jaimoe, and Butch Trucks, who pounded away on their respective drum kits.

Allman and guitarist Warren Haynes traded vocals throughout the two-hour-plus show. But it was the extended instrumental jams, with tense buildups, that were among the evening's best.

Particularly memorable was the guitar interplay between Haynes and Derek Trucks - riffing, sliding and pushing the high end toward the ethereal. If you like your guitar gods, then this was your kind of show, with the two trading solos that screeched, wailed, cacophoned and dripped with southern drawl-inspired blues.

The youngest fans - 2-year-old James and his 4-year-old brother Christopher, wearing miniature-sized psychedelic T-shirts, took it all in from the lawn

''Their first concert was the symphony, and then they attended the bluegrass festival in Corinth,'' dad Will Pouch said. ''But this is the boys' first Allman Brothers show.''

Pouch, who is one of the owners of Esperanto, said he's attended many Allman shows.

''They were great back with Dickie Betts, but that new kid (guitarist Derek Trucks) is great, too,'' he said.

The overall sound, however, was overblown on volume, at least inside the pavilion.

''If you sit out on the lawn, you can party and have a great time, but not remember too much of the actual show,'' said one fan, attending his fifth Allmans Brothers concert.

''Inside, it's different. This is my first time in the pavilion, and you get closer to the performers and it's more of watching and listening to the show than it is a party - even though you can't hear as well close up as you can further back,'' he said.

And right he was about the sound.
At times it felt as if the rhythm section beat in your upper respiratory system, and dual slide guitars felt like they were wheezing inside your nasal cavity, intent on zooming into your skull. For all of Allman's growling, barely a word was decipherable, at least close to the stage.

''Growdoo booby diddle-weiss Kazooba,'' Allman sang at one point (or something close to it), during one particularly multi-colored moment, as the video screen beamed dancing neon mushrooms with bulbous heads that leaned, tilted and boogied on fragile stalks before huddling beneath oversized coolie hats.

The video images provided a nice accompaniment - pink neon and lime-colored hearts, purple butterflies and a Hindu goddess Kali-like dancer who spun her flaming limbs and beat like a heart to the band's sound.

Unfortunately, after the fourth song, the video screen disappeared altogether, leaving nothing but the seven-piece band on the stage to provide all the visuals for the balance of the evening. To that end, Trucks played slide guitar to most any fan's content.
Some passed out, some played Frisbee, and couples stretched out on their blankets huddled in the darkness of the lawn, drawing happy faces on each other's skin, as the band played ''Midnight Rider'' inside.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
originally published in The Saratogian, Aug. 22, 2002

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blue Man Group: Painting the town at summer’s last bash

SARATOGA SPRINGS -The 2003 summer of pop is officially over, effectively done in by the three blue men who appeared at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Saturday night.

The cobalt-colored performance artists came to paint the town with their visionary brand of rock ‘n’ roll freak-a-rama. And after their departure, there was nothing left for anybody to say.

The blue men played to the shadows and danced in the light; they combed the crowd - from center stage to the far reaches of the upper balcony - with miniature “spy” cams, and blew the curtain off its rigid sky-hooks in an opening spectacle worthy of Springsteen or the Rolling Stones. Psychotic reactions for the cyber-age.

Backed by an eight-piece ensemble of keyboards, bass, a pair of guitars and four drummers,
the blue men performed a 90-minute ritual in a celebration of rhythm.
On their backs, they donned hyper-amp’d “tubulums” - portable drumming tubes - which they attacked with orange neon sticks to create a symphony of poly-rhythms.
They used wands like sonic scepters, slicing through the air as huge beams of light maniacally ricocheted on and off the stage.

Among the arsenal, an intricate weave of vinyl tubes, giant sheets of aluminum and a grand piano turned on its side, its wire chords periodically struck by large white-tipped mallets whose atonal chimes reverberated throughout the amphitheater.

These were moments inspired by John Cage as much as by Johnny Rotten. The musical staging was reminiscent of the avant-theatrics performed by Laurie Anderson in her “United States Live” shows of the 1980s.

Tracy Bonham, who led her three-piece band in a pleasing opening set, kicked things off with an electric violin performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” Later, Bonham played the role of psychedelic chanteuse Grace Slick, joining the blue men for a surrealistic rendition of “White Rabbit,” then belting out the rock ‘n’ roll power vocals for a version of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly,” surrounded by portable tubulums that shot long gobs of confetti into the crowd.

The evening’s other opening act, Venus Hum, joined the blue men as well for an ethereal Quentin Tarantino-meets-Las Vegas performance of the disco hit “I Feel Love,” complete
with the lead vocalist’s bowl-shaped skirt illuminated with pulsating light that mimicked the
multiple video action on stage.

There were solemn moments as well.

When Blue Man Group performed “Exhibit 13” in memory of 9/11, tattered pieces of scorched paper fell across the stage like sad winter leaves.

Before the blue men came on stage, the crowd was entertained by a pair of electronic message boards posted on either side of the theater that insulted each other, soliciting audience response.

By evening’s end, the audience was satiated.
Splattered in flecks of multi-colored paint and caught in the flicker of strobe lights, they rose as one and chanted into the night: “Blue! Blue! Blue! Blue!” like a sonically possessed
throng of loons bidding farewell to the waning days of summer.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian, Sept. 01, 2003.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tom Petty: 2006

SARATOGA SPRINGS - In the end, Tom Petty finished where he began, completing the circle of a 30-year career with a final stroke on his jangling guitar to the tune of 'American Girl.' With the word out that this summer's tour may be the band's last large cross-country journey, there was a touch of finality in the air Sunday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where a sell-out crowd of 25,000 cheered Petty and his band of Heartbreakers through a 19-song set celebrating their 30th anniversary.

Following appearances by the Allman Brothers and the Derek Trucks Band earlier in the evening, Petty launched into a trilogy of his great American songbook, opening with the volley of 'Listen to Her Heart,' You Don't Know How it Feels,' and 'I Won't Back Down.'

For nearly two hours, Petty played to the crowd, he strummed and waved and inspired sing-a-longs like a reigning champion going around the track one last time.

The set list highlighted Petty's songwriting talents of the past four decades -- from 'Refugee' and 'Runnin' Down a Dream,' to 'Learning To Fly' and 'Mary Jane's Last Dance.' With 'Saving Grace' and 'Square One,' he showcased a pair of his newest tunes, issued two weeks ago from his 'Highway Companion' CD.

Thirty years ago, the youthful face of the singer stared back from his debut album, donning a black leather motorcycle jacket beneath the logo of a guitar shooting through a heart like a broken arrow. Sunday night, Petty returned as the musical maestro of the timeless verse. He wore crushed velvet with glitter speckles, caught in the reflection of the floodlights that sprayed the crowd in crimson and lavender neon.

Among the evening's emotional highs was the ecstatic 10-minute explosion of 'It's Good to Be King,' as good an example of rock 'n' roll's haunting power as could be experienced on a live musical stage.

Petty also dipped into the musical heritage of his own youth. There were versions of Fleetwood Mac's 'Oh Well,' Van Morrison's 'Mystic Eyes,' and the Bo Diddley ditty 'I'm a Man,' which was dusted with the sonic grunge pop-isms of the Yardbirds in tribute to the Swingin' London sounds that inspired the Florida-born Petty's high school years.

Mostly, there was an appreciation and wonderment in Petty's talents as a songwriter. When the crowd chanted along to the opening verses of 'Free Fallin,' ' it was difficult to imagine another song more symbolic of 20th century Americana.

In the end, it was the rhythms of 'American Girl' that ended the evening with an exclamation mark. 'Oh yeah, all right, take it easy baby, make it last all night,' Petty sang, sending the crowd home, the addictive chorus jangling in their ears.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
"Petty Finishes Where He Started," The Saratogian, Aug. 15, 2006

Tom Petty Live at Saratoga: Summer 2005

by Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Wearing a schoolboy smile and a multi-colored ascot
that invoked the mod Carnaby Street pop-isms of his teenage years, Tom Petty
clutched the neck of his white tear-shaped guitar and led his band of Heartbreakers
through a rousing two-hour set at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Saturday night.

Marking a return to the Spa City for the first time in three years, Petty's onstage exuberance was reciprocated by a joyous gathering of nearly 25,000 fans at the sold out show.

Revisiting the band's earliest work, Petty and The Heartbreakers breathed new life into
their 1970s material 'Breakdown,' 'Listen To Her Heart,' and 'Refugee.'

The hit parade continued throughout, with the band rifling through a series of drive-time radio hits: 'Runnin' Down a Dream,' 'I Won't Back Down,' 'Free Fallin'' and 'Don't Do Me Like That.'

They also delivered a pair of anthems for the MTV generation with 'Mary Jane's Last Dance' and 'You Don't Know How it Feels.'

Behind the performers, a towering video display captured the band's performance in real time.

The backdrop appeared like a massive mirror that had shattered into 15 jagged edges - the multiple screens pulsing with neon intensity as the band pumped up the volume onstage.

Millions of record sales, more than a dozen Grammy nominations and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame have rewarded Petty's talent for constructing timeless songs of boys and girls coming together - and falling apart.

The 54-year old front man, however, has never forgotten his musical influences.

In addition to playing 'Handle with Care' from his incarnation with the Traveling Wilburys, Petty performed renditions of The Animals' 'Cryin',' Van Morrison's 'Gloria,' and a true to the original work-up of Bob Dylan's 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door,' during Saturday's appearance.

There were new songs, like the rhythmically addictive 'Melinda,' which featured the wondrous, extended jazzy solos of keyboardist Benmont Tench, as well as some tastefully twisted alterations applied to odes from the past.

With 'Learning To Fly,' Petty adopted a ballad-like stroke similar to Bruce Springsteen's gospel-inspired works.
Alternately, the band's performance of 'Don't Come Around Here No More' ratcheted up the sonic intensity as the stage was bathed in the lighted effects of the white-hot strobes.

Soaring to a frenetic finale, it was a moment to pause and to celebrate Petty and his Heartbreakers - on the verge of their 30-year anniversary - before the jangling rhythms of Petty's electric guitar resumed its ringing deep into night.

published in The Saratogian, Aug. 1, 2005.

Tom Petty Live at Saratoga: Summer 2002

by Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Nearly 16,000 spirited fans packed into the Saratoga Performing
Arts Center on a Friday night blessed with accommodating weather, attractive lawn-sale
ticket prices and a virtual jukebox of rock 'n' roll hits from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

For the past 25 years, Tom Petty has weaved the poetic language of the common man with a sonically jangled surrealism. He has acquired star-power leverage and used it to do battle with record labels, concert promoters and music publishers, championing the rights of fans and fellow musicians.

In the process, he has earned the right to see his name engraved on a five-point star on Hollywood Boulevard, and he was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Not bad for an insurance salesman's son who grew up in Gainesville, Fla. listening to Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, who left high school to pursue his vision of the American dream.

Friday night, the band was performing on the fifth date of a summerlong tour. They brought along something for everybody.
For fans who came to celebrate, there were the anthemic strains of ''Refugee'' and ''I Won't
Back Down.'' Those tripping down memory lane were treated to fiery renditions of ''Even the Losers'' and ''Here Comes My Girl.'' And recreational vocalists found ''Free Falling,'' ''Mary Jane's Last Dance'' and a cover version of ''Gloria'' inspired full-throated sing-a-longs from the masses.

There was even one moment - during an extended musical interlude in the middle of
''It's Good To Be King'' - when Petty and guitarist Mike Campbell combined to tear
at the very fibers of the song's haunting melody.
The six-piece band, led by dual guitars, attacked the harmonies with such a sonically ferocious intensity that it literally raised the hairs on the back of your neck and you imagined that at any moment the floor would begin to levitate and send everyone zooming into outer space.

Petty, who looks like he hasn't aged a minute since 1978, seemed to be in great spirits from the moment the band took the stage.
Tearing through the opener, ''Runnin' Down A Dream,'' he flashed his pearly whites at the mic. ''It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down,'' Petty sang, amid the arsenal of distinctive guitar riffs behind him, ''I felt so good, like anything was possible.''

The band's sound was clean, crisp and nicely balanced in the amphitheater, from the guitar-and-piano interplay of ''I Need To Know'' to the airy harmonics of ''You Don't
Know How It Feels.''

Petty brought out the wood for a brief acoustic set that included ''Rebel,'' ''Learning To Fly'' and ''Yer So Bad,'' and while the set was loaded with hits, it was clear that this was no oldies revue.

The band debuted three songs from an upcoming CD titled ''The Last DJ'' and scheduled for autumn release, Petty announced.
Musically, the tunes covered familiar ground, while their lyrical introspection was memorable.

''Let my love travel with you always'' Petty drawled on the chorus of a song called ''Have Love Will Travel.'' Campbell squeezed a vintage-styled solo through a wah-wah pedal on the
''Abby Road''-era Beatles-esque ''You Can't Stop the Sun.''

And with the backdrop projecting images of falling snow, Petty sang, ''Please shed some light
on the road less traveled
,'' in a piece titled ''Lost Children,'' as the stage resembled a scene inside a tumbling Christmas snow globe.

The towering set design, which gave the band the appearance that it was performing inside
of a king's giant crown, was fitted with multiple backscreens that complemented the music nicely.
A series of dreamy images conjured a swirly surrealism that looked like a 21st century
digital crank-up of the old Fillmore light shows of the '60s.

For the show-closing ''American Girl,'' Petty donned a Rickenbacker guitar, whose trademark jangling sound hung in the dense air long enough to inspire one last primal dance from the faithful. Eventually, they filed out to rejoin the rest of the world, taking the memory of a
ringing guitar as far as they could with them into the night.

Returning to his rockabilly roots, guitarist Brian Setzer rallied the crowd during his opening
set, highlighted by his renditions of ''Rock This Town '' and ''Brand New Cadillac.''

originally published in The Saratogian, July 8, 2002

Sunday, December 04, 2005

BB King: Live at Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Wailing horns and a juiced-up rhythm section of an eight-piece ensemble heralded the regal entrance for the man called King.

Fans expecting the mopey drizzle of an oldies serenade were instead treated to a joy-filled celebration of the man’s life at the B.B. King Blues Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Next month King celebrates his 77th birthday.
He talked about the things he can no longer do.

“The band tells me after all these years I earned the right to sit down if I wanna,” he said.
“Well, I wanna.”
King wrapped his big arms around longtime companion “Lucille,” and together they sat,
center stage, where he clowned with the crowd in a way that was both charming and endearing.

While he riffed on the blues, his band stomped, swung and rifled through a repertoire that was born in the deep blues heart of America itself.
King invoked the crowd with the call-and-response jubilance of “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Rock Me Baby (All Night Long)” and a few other naughtily inspired sing-alongs that would made fans of Blink-182 blush in comparison.
The man positively oozed passion.

“I get criticized all the time by people who say I have too much fun for a blues singer. I say, ‘Yeah, I have fun.’ If you don’t wanna have fun,” he said, “then go to sleep.”

As he played, his body shook and shimmied and encouraged the audience to do likewise.
Looking down at his body then out to the crowd he said, “Now some of you ain’t got
as much to shake as I do, but Lucille and I say, ‘hey, that’s all right - just shake what ya got.”‘

There were those distinctive moves - an index finger tapping on his chest and a closed fist pounding into open left hand to keep the beat - simple and subtle moves that many have seen him do for 20, 30, even 40 years. When he played, his head swayed from side to side, with a closed-eye serenity and a smile that looked like he was riding the melodies given to him from some higher place.

He bent strings and rattled his wrist, wrenching vibrations from Lucille’s neck that oozed sonic rainbows and long looping notes that hung in the air until he smacked them down with the palm of his hand like he was snapping cables.

The four-piece horn section included trumpet, big baritone and a pair of saxophones. A keyboard player, bass, drums and Charlie Dennis’ tasteful guitar completed the ensemble.

In King’s “blues” there is life - remorse and sorrow and ecstasy and charisma.
He engaged the audience with “3 O’Clock Blues,” sang “You Are My Sunshine” for the ladies, and “Rock Me Baby” for their male partners. He ripped through “Key to the Highway” and rollicked in a hyper-funked version of “The Thrill is Gone,” whose incendiary mix of moxie and mojo brought it back down sweetly for “Somebody Really Loves You.”
The finale, a clanging robust-filled version of “When the Saints Go Marching In,”
sent everyone marching home.

Earlier in the evening, Kim Wilson’s outrageous harp blowing led the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Wilson, the only remaining original member of the band, has led a variety of T-Bird incarnations since the groups formation in 1974.

Susan Tedeschi also appeared.
Backed by a pair of keyboardists, and a bass and drum rhythm section combo, the 30-something suburban Boston native lived up to her Janis Joplin-meets-Bonnie Raitt raw vocal style hype.

Tedeschi, who first gained recognition with her 1998 debut, “Just Won’t Burn,” performed a lengthy set that combined funky ensemble pieces as well as a preview of some slow hypnotic tunes slated for November release.
Looking like an anomaly in a calf-length floral skirt in these MTV days, she backed up her vocals with some shrill riffs wrung from the rosewood neck of her Kelly green Telecaster.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Saratogian. Sept. 1, 2002.

BB King; A Quiz

1. B.B. King was born on a plantation in Mississippi in 1925. When he was in his 20s, he adopted the catchy radio name “B.B.” What do the initials “B.B.” stand for ?

A. Big Boy
B. Blues Boy
C. Bad Boy
D. Big Band

2. What was his actual birth name?

A. Luigi
B. Wayne
C. Riley
D. Billy

3. In 1947, King hitchhiked to which city to pursue his music career?

A. Memphis, Tenn.
B. Chicago
C. Schenectady
D. New Orleans

4. B.B. King and “Lucille” have a relationship that has lasted for 50 years. Where did Lucille originally come from?

A. It is his mother’s first name
B. From a woman who had “done him wrong”
C. From a woman who “done him right”
D. From a woman who was at the center of the attentions of a bar brawl-turned-fire
that almost killed him

5. In 1969, King and Ike and Tina Turner were selected to open a number of dates during the Rolling Stones North American Tour. It was eventually documented in the film “Gimme Shelter.” Which of the following other musicians has King collaborated with in film?

A. Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler
B. Celine Dion and John Coltrane
C. Luciano Pavarotti and U-2
D. Eminem and Elton John

6. What do Gregg Allman, Peter Frampton, Sonny Rollins and the Beach Boys all have in common with B.B. King?

A. They all performed with him on stage Live Aid in 1985
B: All have appeared at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City
C. All have performed cover versions of “The Thrill is Gone”
D. Nothing. This is a trick question and the quiz is just dumb

7. This year’s version of the B.B. King Blues Festival Tour began on Aug. 3 in Oregon.
How many years has the tour run?

A. Third annual
B. Fifth annual
C. 11th annual
D. Has run six times, but not consecutively

8. Previous Blues Festival tours have included Dr. John, Etta James and the Neville Brothers. Who will be appearing on the SPAC stage on Friday?

A. Canned Heat and Obi-Wa-Kanobe
B. Chuck Berry and George Thorogood
C. Buster Poindexter and Johnny Thunders
D. The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Susan Tedeschi

9. B.B. King has released more than 50 albums, won 11 Grammy Awards, and been elected
into four different halls of fame. Additionally, he holds honorary doctorates from five
different American colleges and universities. How far did his schooling take him?

A. High school diploma
B. One semester of college
C. Didn’t complete high school
D. A bachelor of science degree in liberal arts

10. Bonus Question: B.B. King has appeared in films, television commercials and television shows - from Married with Children and The Cosby Show to General Hospital.
In 1991, he was designated a spot on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. In between what two other “stars” does King’s spot lie?

A. George Sanders and Bela Lugosi
B. Steve McQueen and Tom Waits
C. Vivian Leigh and Milton Berle
D. “Lucille” Ball and Little Richard

Answer key:
. (B), 2. (C), 3. (A),
4. (D), 5. (C), 6. (B),
(C), 8. (D), 9. (C),

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian , Aug. 29, 2002, in advance of BB King's
performance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.