Blimey, O'Riley (B)B King's final UK tour

The one where Malarkey and Alex laugh and cry with BB King.

I often feel blue wishing I was old enough to have seen the blues greats play. Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson II, T. Bone Walker and BB King are rarely far away from iTunes for more than a few days. Yesterday the last of those greats and King Of The Blues, Riley B (B) King brought some Mississippi sun to rainy Manchester (Arena) and Alex and I were there to soak it up.

BB King

Sweet Sixteen Thirteen

Alex is a rare soul. I'm not sure how many thirteen year olds have gigabytes of blues music filling their iPods, but Alex shares my love of the blues. On his iPod, John Lee Hooker rubs shoulders with Little Walter, Otis Rush and of course BB King. His last Christmas stocking included music by Robert Johnson and Son House and this year a surprise; A ticket to see the King Of The Blues play on his farewell UK tour. When I was thirteen I was fortunate to see BB play live in London. So you can imagine how pleased I was to share the experience of seeing him play again with Alex when he is thirteen.

Why I Sing The Blues

This year BB was eighty. After more than fifty years of touring he has decided that this trip to the UK will be his last. The years have finally caught up with him and he walked slowly across the stage to take the seat where he sat to play Lucille, the name he has given his guitars since 1949. With a cheeky smile he told the audience I'm diabetic, got bad knees, a bad back and my head ain't too good neither. Listening to him talk, sing and play, you never could tell.

I've always tried to do my best BB told us, but often I feel that my best wasn't as good as I'd have liked it to be. Tonight I think it's gonna be alright. He wasn't wrong.

There are literally hundreds of his songs I yearn to hear BB play live and so I knew that some of mine and Alex's favourites (including Hummingbird) might be missing from this final set. Even so there was no room for disappointment.

were all there and played with an amazing spirit and passion, even after all those years, by BB and his eight piece band which included his nephew Walter King on sax. Before BB appeared to fond applause, the band opened the set with two tunes and a series of solos which kept the focus of the rest of the show on BB himself. He talked between tunes, introduced his band (several times), as well as his son and grandson who are both part of his company. He likes to talk, quipping that the paper's next day might say BB King was good, but he talked, a lot. I could listen to him talk all night.

The Thrill Is Gone

BB told the audience that this tour would be his last, but that if the fates allow, that he would like to do one more. I hope that if he does, Alex and I will be there to see him play Lucille. If this time was the last, the very last, I know one young man who will treasure the memory of last night for a very long time. 'The Thrill Is Gone'?


  1. #1 On April 1, 2006 04:52 PM Adam Schilling said:

    Very, very envious!

    I was one of those kids, like Alex I guess, with (erm, not iPods, but) records upons cassettes upon CDs of Blues.

    (these days I get to say the iPod bit)

    To be honest, it was the original Blues Brothers film that hooked me as a kid, and I never lost touch.

    As an aside, I don't think the Blues is something that can take you like a fad. Once it's in you, it's there to stay...

  2. #2 On April 1, 2006 07:04 PM Colly said:

    You mention John Lee Hooker - love that dude (or should I say "cat"?):
    Hey man, leave ma wife alone!
    One bourbon, one scotch, one beer"...


  3. #3 On April 1, 2006 10:28 PM Jeff L said:

    Nice! I wish he was coming a bit closer to where I live, though I was tempted to drive across a few states to see him. I hope he does one more as well.

  4. #4 On April 1, 2006 11:59 PM Robert dM said:

    I saw BB for the fifth time recently in Belgium on his 80th birthday tour. The concert was also announced to be his farewell concert in Belgium. BB himself brought this up at the end of his show and strongly denied that this was to be his official farewell tour to Belgium. If his health will allow it he hoped to return, but offcourse at 80 it remains uncertain. I sure didn't regret going out to see him one more time: what an entertainer! The way he still plays his audience: awesome!

  5. #5 On April 3, 2006 01:24 AM Britney said:

    I love B.B. King I have heard him live many times and would reccommend anybody totry and give him a listen. Glad to read you like him to!

  6. #6 On April 3, 2006 03:48 AM Jeff L said:

    Hey Malarkey,

    Fantastic response on Molly's blog.

  7. #7 On April 3, 2006 10:01 AM Jens Grochtdreis said:

    I have heard B.B. King about four times in the last years. Last year's performance wasn't very good, I think his health is declining. But while he wasn't that good like he was the years before he still was fantatstic and it is amazing to see, how an old man can fill a huge rume just with his presence. His guitarplaying is still fantastic. I heard Eric Clapton, too but I think B.B. is still a league for himself. Unfortunately I never could see John Lee Hooker.

    Last year b.B. said, this should be his farewell-tour, this year it's his "final farewell-tour". I think, he'll gonna die on stage or on tour.

    I will always remember two wunderfull live events in my life: Van Morisson in the Royal Albert Hall and my first B.B.King concert. It was amazing and he and will be the King of the Blues!

    Glad you enjoy this music with me, besides the webstandards.

    Greetings from Germany,
    Jens Grochtdreis

  8. #8 On April 3, 2006 04:18 PM Rob Kirton said:

    I have seen the great guy play on a couple of occasions. For somebody who adopted his style because he couldnt really play bottle neck, nor could he ever play and sing at the same time, he's a wonder. More soul in his voice and fingertips than most could ever achieve. A real musical heavy weight. Any body who has seen him and his" big" band will probably appreciate this :0)

    If he does tour one more time, never mind front row tickets,
    I'd want to do the the MC bit

    Lets here it one more time for that dynamic gentelman of the blues Mr BB King... Mr BB King.. Mr BB King..