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Artist: B.B. King
Performance date: January 21, 1999
Publication: New York Post

New York Post; New York; Jan 21, 1999; Dan Aquilante;

Copyright New York Post Corporation Jan 21, 1999

JUST as the majesty of his name indicates, B.B. King ruled at the Village's jazz shrine the Blue Note.

The roly-poly, rubber-faced blues master played a short yet entertaining set that tapped selections ranging from his most recent disc to his electric blues standard, "The Thrill Is Gone."

At Tuesday's opening show of a six-night engagement, anticipation ran high. Longtime fans seated thisclose to each other regaled newcomer guests with acclaim for the man's past work.

The all-praise pre-show chatter was on the money:B.B. King live, in a tiny club, is a thrill. To hear him sustain a high note on Lucille, his guitar, or shout "Let the good times roll" with the power of a lifetime of doing just that is like experiencing a force of nature.

As was every performance he's played here in Skyscraper Park over the last few years, this one was scripted. From two B.B. concerts last year and this week's residency, it's clear that he isn't going to mess with a show that works.

Some might argue that the same music, the same chitchat, the same jokes would get old; but, somehow, King's exuberance for life works its way into the music to keep things fresh. There was nothing new about King's current show, just as there is nothing new about a red- ball sunset - yet they're both still inspiring.

As usual, King opened with his version of the Crescent City classic "Let the Good Times Roll," where he cautioned the predominantly young audience that, "When it's over, you dead and gone, so let the good times roll."

It was slightly harder for those seated at stage right to achieve those same good-time feelings, since their tables had an extremely limited view of the stage. King apologized to those unfortunately positioned patrons, reassuring them with, "You'll hear me fine, and sometimes you might even see me."

Feeling their pain for having dished out a major cover charge for such terrible seats, B.B. dedicated "Why I Sing the Blues" to them. At his age, he probably has his own reasons for singing the blues, but you couldn't tell from his booming delivery and staccato, emotion- packed fretwork.

By the third song, "I Will Survive," Mr. King was plopped in a straight-backed chair on stage. "Just because I'm seated doesn't mean I'm tired," King advised the crowd, adding: "I'm 73 years old. At 73, I'm glad to be here - I'm glad to be anywhere."

King's knees might be a little stiff, but otherwise he's in great shape. Any thoughts you might have had that he was a frail old man were dispelled when he lustily told a brunette showing off a Wonderbra full of cleavage, "Lady, I'm gonna lace your boots this evening." That said, King launched the evening's show stopper, "The Thrill Is Gone."

It doesn't change: The show, the man, the plan are the same - year in and year out. And, somehow, King in concert keeps delivering the thrills.

B.B. King continues at the Blue Note, 131 W. Third St., through Sunday. Shows are at 9 and 11:30 p.m. There is a $65 cover charge; (212) 475-8592.


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