B.B. King Plays the Blues at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, January 4

Photo by Manny Hernandez
B.B. King
Knight Concert Hall
Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami
Wednesday, January 4, 2011

Better Than: A nice, big bottle of chilled Arbor Mist.

A half-century ago, Riley "Blues Boy" King and his fine, fat-bodied guitar, Lucille, would make regular wintertime trips to Miami for some rockin', rollin', dancin', drinkin', and laughin' at famous joints like The Harlem Square Club in Overtown, The Palms in Hallandale, and Club Downbeat in Goulds.

These days, though, Mr. King is an octogenarian roots music legend. So he ain't runnin' around the Chitlin Circuit no more. He's traveling by Town Car to performing arts centers across America.

And last night, ol' B.B. and Lucy (or maybe her younger sister) had a one-night stand at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Downtown Miami, gettin' wild and makin' a blues baby while the entire Knight Concert Hall watched, whistled, and cheered.

Photo by Manny Hernandez

The evening began at 8 p.m. sharp when the seven-man B.B. King Blues Band rolled out onto the concert hall's stage without its namesake, jamming through a mellow fifteen-minute instrumental set of jazzy blues as the Arsht's ushers seated all kinds of chronically tardy Miami types.

Each member of B.B.'s band was decked out in formal attire with a little flash. The gentleman on keys, Ernest Vatrease, wore a crisp tuxedo and bow tie. His equally dapper brother on bass, Reggie Richards, plucked a candy-red six-string while drummer Tony Coleman rocked a silvery vest, collarless dress shirt, and mirrored aviator glasses.

Grey-haired guitar player Charlie Dennis looked slick in tux, tie, shades, golden vest, and a big 24-karat loop earring. And then off to the side, there was that handsome brass trio: band leader James "Boogaloo" Bolden as well as sax player (and the main man's nephew) Walter Raleigh King, plus trumpeter Stanley Abernathy.

Photo by Manny Hernandez

Once the whole place was finally neatly seated, it was Boogaloo's cue. And he stepped up to the mike to boomingly announce, "Now we bring to the stage, the King of the Blues, B.B. King!" And it was time to get up again. And shout. And applaud. And show some love.

Every man, woman, and child in the house gave B.B. a standing ovation as he shuffled out, wearing a multicolor tuxedo jacket splashed with gold, just smiling wide, shrugging to the beat, and flicking branded B.B. guitar picks into the crowd as if he were throwing Aces at his best friends.

After a couple of minutes, the King took his place upon that trademark throne (a simple black chair at center stage), picked up his big black guitar, and led his big bad band through an introductory tune that ended when ol' Blues Boy whispered, "Evening, ladies and gentlemen."

Photo by Manny Hernandez

Laying down the standard routine for the rest of the show, B.B. introduced his crew, tossing out wisecracks, one-liners, namedrops, remembrances, and stream-of-consciousness commentary.

He joked about Boogaloo's dancing skills. He teased drummer Tony Coleman about coming from "a chicken coop in Jacksonville" and their feud over who's got the "bigger, um, feet." He demanded applause for Ernest, Reggie, Walter, and Stanley.

And he complained about guitar player Charlie Dennis gettin' all the chicks, saying, "If any of you gentleman got ladies who like guitar music, don't let 'em come down front. Because when we put a little heat out there, the ladies start parading and they stop in front of Charlie and start disrobing. You know, he's a good guitar player. But he's not such a good sport. He doesn't share."

Photo by Manny Hernandez

Location Info


Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: Music

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B.B. KIng's guitar is named, "Lucille," Albert King called his Gibson Flying V, "Lucy."

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