Your Complete Guide to the Chicago Blues Scene
with Guy King and his Little Big Band
January 15, 2011
The Paramount Theater
By Dawn O’Keefe Williams
P hotos: Jennifer Wheeler
hotos: Jennifer Wheeler
Chicago’s Guy King and his Little Big Band were impeccably dressed -- the band wore dark suits and Guy looked dapper in a light grey suit -- as they opened up for B.B. King at the Paramount Theater with a robust, horn propelled, up-tempo song, “Countdown – Think”. Guitarist/vocalist Guy King, introduced his band and himself to the audience and expressed his gratitude for being able to open for B.B. King. The band then broke into a funky number “Go Out and Get It.” He further demonstrated his versatility with his original song “Livin’ It,” a mid-tempo number that brings in a Gospel loop. His guitar playing was incredibly precise. You could hear each note in his solos; they were as crisp at fret 21 as they were at fret six. As a singer, Guy’s voice is smooth with a nice touch of vibrato and the right amount of rasp. He wrapped up the show with “a little somethin’ special we put together for you” as he performed a rocking version of “Born Under A Bad Sign”.
B.B. King’s big band walked on stage, the crowd roared and a great
number of people stood as they applauded in anticipation of the “King of
the Blues.” The band
members were well-dressed in dark suits, setting the style for a very
classy evening. The band
opened with a jazz number that had a
B.B. then addressed the crowd, his voice belying his 85 years; he sounded youthful and strong. B.B. took us through some standards such as “Rock Me Baby,” “Keys To The Highway,” “Nobody Loves Me,” “Three O’Clock in the Morning” and “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” -- songs you’ve heard a hundred times but which sounded so fresh on this night. King’s powerful, clear voice rang out across the large theatre as did the notes he played on “Lucille”. He introduced the band and gave the drums and bass a solo, and then brought one of his daughters, Chicago’s own Shirley King, to the stage. B.B. playfully bantered with her about what key she likes to sing in and then played a shuffle as Shirley sang “Hoochie Coochie Man.” The “Daughter of the Blues” clearly demonstrated that she has her Daddy’s pipes and that her strong vocals can carry some grit, too.
Throughout the performance, B.B. entertained the audience with comedic bantering with the band, while the ensemble played quietly behind him, keeping a solid rhythm and adding to the humor. “Somebody’s gonna get cut in this band,” said B.B. as he laughed and joked with the drummer.
He gave us bits of wisdom, such as the tale of when he first met T-Bone Burnett, who produced his last CD, One Kind Favor. At first sight, the King of the Blues wondered: “How is this man, who is half my age, going to show me what I already know at age 82 (in 2008)? The CD won a Grammy Award, so B.B. no longer questions what knowledge T-Bone possesses.
B.B. later sang a song for “the ladies” in the audience to show how much he appreciated and respected women. What a surprise when he broke out with “You Are My Sunshine”. The audience was delighted and sang along with him. It was uplifting. Of course, he had to sing a song for the men and gave them “Rock Me Baby.” B.B. played with the audience, asking them to sing with him in a call-and-answer fashion. The entire house joined in. The evening ended with his timeless signature song, “Thrill is Gone.” B.B. thanked the audience and praised Guy King’s set as well. It was a classic performance from a living legend. It just doesn’t get any better than that.