The Live at Montreux concert-DVD/Blu-ray series has added the legendary B.B. King’s 1993 performance to their growing roster. B.B. and his band have been frequent performers over the course of the music festival’s long history, marking his 19th appearance a last week at the 2009 edition. Over the course of 100 minutes, the viewer will see a master showman at work on a Blu-ray disc that is a worthy addition to any music library.
Led by saxophonist Walter King, B.B.’s nephew, the band sounds good as they open the set with a few numbers on their own. Dressed in a turquoise dinner jacket with some type of Asian design on it, B.B. makes his entrance. He picks up his guitar Lucille and immediately makes her sing in the recognizable sweet, sweet tone he is famous for as he caresses her strings.
They play Louis Jordan’s “Let The Good Times Roll,” a jubilant celebration about living life in the moment. The audience shows they are into it by joining the call back on the first chorus. Guitarist Leon Warren gets a solo and is very good. As he does with every member, B.B. always points out a solo performance for recognition from the audience. Keyboardist James Toney gets his own time in the spotlight sandwiched between two B.B. solos on “When It All Comes Down (I’ll Still Be Around).”
B.B. reveals himself to be the consummate professional throughout the night. During “Chains of Love,” he pops a string and rather than get a new guitar or wait until the trumpet solo, he exemplifies the credo “the show must go on” and restrings it, with the help of Walter, all the while continuing to sing and convey the song’s emotion. During another Jordan song, “Caledonia,” he alternates the microphone height between himself and the two sax players who each come to the forefront of the stage for a solo. “All Over Again” is an outstanding instrumental where B.B. shows how well he can play quiet or loud.
As they play “Blues Man,” the lyrics of which sound like a time before B.B. had made it, he and the other guitarists sit on chairs to bring back the early days when he first started in business when he played tiny clubs. The set ends with B.B.’s all-time classic, a fantastic rendition of “The Thrill Is Gone.” The song is so good it almost makes you wish you had a broken heart just so hearing the song could help heal it.
The video is presented in 1080i High Definition Widescreen with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The details of King’s stylish coat and the beads of sweat on the hard-working musicians are clear and distinct, and colors appear consistent throughout. The camera work and pacing of the editing is well done as it allows the viewer to clearly see the band members play, including the framing on close-ups of their fingers. The audio is defaulted to LPCM Stereo, and is also available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS HD Master Audio. The DTS delivers very good fidelity and the instruments fill the surrounds.
There’s a 15-minute bonus of three songs from a 2006 set, which finds 80-year-old B.B. still doing what he does best, although he informs the crowd he needs to perform from a chair because of his age. The band line-up is slightly altered. There is a new guitarist and bassist. The percussionist is gone and a trumpeter has been added. “Why I Sing The Blues” is repeated from the previous set, but there are two new songs. An up-tempo version of “When Love Comes to Town” that Bono wrote for B.B. and “Guess Who.” Hopefully, this is just a preview of a future release.
If you are a fan of B.B. King or just music in general, Live at Montreux 1993 makes for great viewing/listening. It’s too bad a CD of the set isn’t included, so you could take it wherever the good times rolled.