B.B. King – Live at Montreux 1993 [DVD]
Eagle Rock Entertainment (6/2/09)
I’m not the biggest fan of big-band blues (or tongue-twisters, for that matter), but it’s hard not be a fan of B.B. King’s unmistakable lead-guitar sound and larger-than-life stage presence.
Live at Montreux 1993, the latest in a series of CDs and DVDs showcasing performances at Switzerland’s annual Montreux Jazz Festival, features a 17-song set. A special Blu-Ray edition features three bonus tracks from a subsequent 2006 Montreux appearance: “Why I Sing The Blues”, “When Love Comes to Town” and “Guess Who”.
At the time of the 1993 performance, King was a spry 68 years of age, and had no problem pulling out all the stops with his highly talented big band right there to back up every note. Rounding out the full sound besides the always-present drums and bass are a three-piece horn section, rhythm guitar, keyboards and percussion. Currently, the “King of the Blues” has played the Montreux Jazz Festival a record nineteen times and has recorded over fifty albums, all after having played 342 one-night stands in 1956. (Amazing.)
All of King’s hits can be found on this DVD, from “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Caldonia”, to “Rock Me Baby” and “The Thrill Is Gone”. The set also features an extended-jam cover of the Robert Cray classic, “Playing With My Friends”.
The set opens with the band warming up the audience with three instrumentals, including some very nifty guitar playing by Leon Warren, sprinkling some jazz toppings onto the mix. One of the most memorable from this concert is when King snaps his high E-string after a wicked bend on Lucille (his black Gibson ES-335. Like you don’t know). Nephew Walter King (saxophone and band conductor), brings his uncle a fresh string and the big man proceeds to wind it up, not missing a single word or the emotions attached to them. (Priceless.) Who needs a guitar tech during the show, right?! I guess when you only play one guitar, there isn’t a back-up on stage to spin around and grab.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not big into Mr. King’s style of blues even though I listen to guys like Buddy Guy and Johnny “Guitar” Watson on a daily basis. That said, there is no doubt that B.B. King and his band are on top of their game here, delivering all the goods a fan of big-band blues will love to hear. For those fans, this DVD is a must-buy.