If you love live music and are in New York City, BB King's Blues Club is a fabulous intimate venue to see some of your favorite blues, R & B, soul, and rock and roll artists. We began our holiday with a Johnny Winter concert in this intimate venue, and were lucky enough to end our stay with the Rev. Al Green.
Before I get into the music (which was just fabulous) I have to say a few words about the club experience at BB King's. First, a tip for newbies. We have learned over the years that it is crucial to get to the club early, especially for a popular performer like Al Green. This way as one of the first seated you are close to the stage.
However, even though they have been doing this for years, and the food is decent, the service at BB King's truly stinks. We are typically among the first people seated and the last served. I waited so long for caesar salad with fried calamari that I was literally faint by the time it arrived. Our first round of drinks took 25 minutes, and we were still eating when the show started, which is not ideal when they seat you 2 hours before show time! In addition, when I checked my bill they had charged me for food at the next table, so I had to wait longer as they adjusted the bill.
Opening for Green was New Zealand comedian Bret McKenzie, best known stateside for HBO's Flight of the Conchords. McKenzie was hysterically funny, but I probably would have enjoyed his act more had I not been wrangling with our server to get my dinner. Still, his deadpan dry humor had me laughing and helped set a more joyful mood for the upcoming show.
All was forgiven when the Reverend arrived on stage with his 13 member band, including his daughters as backup singers. Green is known for love songs and romantic sparks, and at 63 he still has a sexual sizzle on stage. There were women much younger than my 43 years who were trying to catch his beads of sweat as he flicked them into the audience! The man still has IT — and we could feel the draw in our center stage seats just six feet from the performers.
We weren't sure going in what kind of music we would be hearing, but didn't really care as just to be in the presence of Al Green was enough of a draw for us. In recent years Green has played more gospel, but his latest recording brought him back to the R&B love songs that we know best. So when he came out singing his new single "Lay It Down" with singer-songwriter John Legend singing backup vocals along with Green's daughters, we knew we were in for a great show.
It was like a greatest hits parade, with a set list that included “Tired of Being Alone,” “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” "L.O.V.E.," and a lusty “Here I Am Baby (Come and Take Me).” We had one gospel moment with an awe inspiring "Amazing Grace" along with a medley of soul hits. And Green encouraged us to sing along, as we all knew the words to every single song. The band was smokin' hot, and Green even had two male dancers to keep things shaking on stage.
The relatively short 75 minute set ended with "Love and Happiness" and the lack of an encore was a bit disappointing, but the energy and excitement of the concert made up for that. Green of course had a large supply of the requisite red roses which were thrown to the ladies (you know I got one!) and the crowd was just swooning. We paid a lot to see him in such a small venue, $175 per ticket plus food and beverages, but it was completely worth it to be that close to a living legend of soul.