B.B. KING MUSIC FESTIVAL: THE THRILL REMAINS

B.B. King Music Festival featuring B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Galactic & MOFRO | August 9, 2003 | Tampa, FL

With anticipation we arrived at the USF Sundome in Tampa, Florida on August 9, 2003, for the 12th edition of The B.B. King Music Festival. With Jeff Beck and B.B. King, where else could you find two living legends of music on the same stage in a single night? The lineup was rounded out by jamband regulars Galactic and up and coming MOFRO, creating a mix of varying musical and performance styles.

The show started with a set by Jacksonville swamp rockers MOFRO. Beginning with just front man John "J.J." Grey and slide guitarist Daryl Hance, they started slow and soulful with J.J. crooning about the lazy sunny summer. The band played a few songs from their debut CD Blackwater and a new song that J.J. said he wrote just a couple of days ago, and added "man, it's good to be back in Florida" and 'how different the air here feels."

They were finally cutting loose and really hitting that swamp blues groove they are known for on the song "Lochloosa." The introduction focused on where home is for J.J., a place off highway 41 just down the road from this small north Florida town. J.J. talked about being homesick, and sang about "every mosquito, rattlesnake, alligator, black water swamp and fresh spring rain," in a down home gritty blues style, ending with "Lord, I Need Here." After just about bringing the quarter filled house down, they left the stage after a way too short 25 minute set.

The audience was only about half full when New Orleans funk masters Galactic took the stage. They opened as an instrumental quintet with Ben Ellman's tenor sax trading licks with Rich Vogel's Hammond B3. They blazed through "Go Go," "Blackbird Special," "Moil," "Truth is Out" and "Never Called You Crazy" with such energy that Stanton Moore seemed at times to be shot out of his drum seat like he was in an ejector seat. At this point the crowd on the floor of the Sundome was grooving and dancing, enjoying the deep funk influence. Finally on "Bittersweet" they brought out Theryl "The Houseman" deClouet. The excited crowd seemed to quickly lose its energy as he laid down his soulful vocals. Seeing that they were in Florida, it seemed appropriate for "The Houseman" to lead them through a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Saturday Night Special," with much of the appreciative crowd joining in.

After the Houseman's exit, Galactic cranked up the motion and energy, and the crowd started to get their groove back. They kicked up the level to a high point again as they played "Moog Marmalade," "Doublewide" >"Root Down" and finally ending with "Shibuya." Stanton was almost in perpetual motion and appeared as if he would vibrate himself into orbit at any second. His signature as the group's leader was very apparent, particularly with the heavy funk sound and dueling rhythm of bass and drums. Galactic's new CD, titled Ruckus, will be out in October.

It was almost 8:30 p.m. when Jeff Beck and the "Guitar Shop" band of Terry Bozio on drums and Tony Hymas on keyboards took the stage. It was apparent the "Mullet" was making a comeback and that a good portion of the crowd was definitely stuck in the 80's. The smoke machines and swirling lights seemed to help pump up his fans and bring them to their feet. Jeff Beck immediately tore into a screeching guitar tirade as Terry Bozio plastered away at easily the largest drum kit we have ever seen. After several songs, in a very techno blues style, at times with a backdrop of sparkly turquoise stars on a purple background, techno guitar wail prevailed. Through song after song, the performance appeared to be a theatrical event, rather than a musical performance, with a portion of the crowd involved and screaming, reminiscent of stadium rock shows. Jeff tore through a repertoire of old and new songs including such seventies gems as "Freeway Jam" from Blow By Blow and "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" from Wired. After an hour set he came back and treated the crowd to a spirited version of his most popular song "People Get Ready." It was too bad he didn't end there because the last song, a new tune "My Thing," skipped back to the harsh grating techno style from his new CD. Although it is said that Jeff Beck keeps reinventing himself, the mood and the music of this performance truly did not fit the melodic creative style of the first two performances of the night.

Finally a few minutes before 10:00 p.m., the world famous, B.B. King's Blues Band opened with a two song instrumental introduction. B.B. King then walked out to a thunderous applause, and took residence in a chair center-stage announcing that he can't stay up and play anymore at almost 77 years old. "I'm feeling good tonight," he said, adding, "I think I've earned the right to sit down if I want to," eliciting loud cheers from the crowd. In true B.B. showman style, as the keyboardist played on, B.B. pretended to be bored for a minute, before screaming "Are you ready?," and launching "Let the Good Times Roll." He continued to joke away with the band and play with the audience as he went through his list of standards "Caldonia," "Early in the Morning," "Downhearted," "Key to the Highway," and crowd favorite, "The Thrill Is Gone." Although he doesn't play his trademark guitar "Lucille" as much as he had in past years, he made up for it by the quality of the notes that emanated from her. After an hour set the "King" appeared to be tired and the show wrapped up with B.B. throwing guitar picks and necklaces to the first few rows of the audience.

All said it was a very eclectic night both musically and audience-wise. Where else would you see mullet headed 50 year olds, elderly blues fans as old as B.B. King himself and dreadlocked tie-dyes in the same arena? This was a well enjoyed show for people of every musical taste.

Words: Randi Whitehead
Photos: George Weiss
JamBase | Florida
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[Published on: 8/25/03]

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