The legendary B.B. King and Buddy Guy played the packed Nob Hill Masonic Center Monday night. I expected a mellow show from the two blues legends – a performance just for posterity’s sake – but instead was treated to a constant stream of talent from two of the very best. Buddy Guy was up first, and while I have to admit I am more familiar with B.B., Guy’s performance made of me an instant lifelong fan. He captivated the audience from the start, stirring us with his skills and professing his love for San Francisco, noting he wanted to play all day. He was endlessly energetic, and his guitar accompanied him while he roved up and down aisles, flirted with women in the audience, played on the strings with a drumstick as well as the zipper of his pants. At one point, Guy playfully chastised a fan who screamed a lyric too early – but quickly returned with an improvised line, pointing in the general direction of the fan and quipping, “you know Frisco, I’m just messing with you!”
King’s band opened up with a jam which showcased solos from each band member in turn, before B.B. (crisply at 86, sans wheelchair / walker) strolled into the middle of it and brought the song home. From the outset, B.B. was such a humble and great guy – he introduced all of his band members one by one before pointing out his nephew, the first of the Kings to graduate from college. A crazed fan from Peru interrupted B.B.’s intro of his incredible guitar player, just to point out that he’d come from Peru for the occasion – but B.B. took it in stride, saying that he came through Peru years ago via Brazil (“see, I still remember things!”). From there, they launched into a set almost too overwhelming to describe. Most of B.B.’s trust went to band leader and trumpeter (for three decades running) James Boogaloo Bolden, who deftly controlled the group with his a dynamite presence. It all formed the perfect backdrop for B.B.’s blues – and King’s playing itself still surpasses the capabilities of most guitarists in the world today. You must see this band – as his reputation would imply, there’s no way to do it justice with words alone.