B.B. King with PAUL REDDICK AND THE SIDEMEN at Massey Hall, January 17. Tickets: $39.50-89.50. Attendance: 2,300. Rating: NNNN
the audience knew it. the musi- cians onstage knew it. And B.B. King certainly knew that this could be his last time around. That was sadly apparent as the 76-year-old blues ambassador stepped forth with a pronounced limp and sat in a chair centre-stage, where he would remain for the entire evening.
"I've earned the right to sit down if I want to -- and I want to!" King informed the crowd, explaining that he'd injured his right leg getting off his tour bus. He then tore into a blistering version of I'll Survive, shouting the tag line defiantly.
Being seated didn't seem to hinder King's guitar-playing. With sideman guitarist Leon Warren holding down the rhythm, King was free to let his singing vibrato leads soar, and he took every opportunity offered. But when the tempo slowed, King also showed he could still swing with tasty elegance, which makes you wonder why he isn't cutting small-combo jazz records on his days off.
Rather than turn the show into a sales pitch for recent releases, the veteran entertainer filled his 90-minute set with long-time favourites -- The Thrill Is Gone, Rock Me Baby, How Blue Can You Get? -- albeit with new arrangements that took full advantage of his four-piece horn section and stylish Hammond organist James Toney.
Before leaving to a standing ovation, King pledged to return "someday," but just in case, he left behind a show to remember.TIM PERLICH