Concert Review: Keb’ Mo’ / Anthony Damato @ The Egg, 05/17/2023
Keb Mo’s “Perfect” Concert at The Egg
It has been said that every Persian rug is so perfect that the makers purposely design a single mistake into the woven pattern to prove that the rug was designed by a person and not created like a mass-produced product designed by a machine. Keb’ Mo’s concert at The Egg Wednesday night was the roots/Americana/blues equivalent of a Persian rug without that one mistake.
His hour-and-a-half performance, backed by a spectacularly talented three-piece band, was smooth, clean, and – yes, flawless – a term I’ve never used to describe a roots-oriented concert.
I am reminded of the first time I heard Delta blues legend, Jimmy Reed. I was in the dorm room of a fellow student from Kentucky who was playing Jimmy’s Live at Carnegie Hall album on his stereo. Now Jimmy Reed will never be described as perfect. His mistakes are so inherent in his presentation that his record label VeeJay could take a studio recording, add canned applause and label it Live at Carnegie Hall, and most people to this day are no wiser.
Keb’ Mo’ played to an almost sold-out crowd at the Hart Theater, the largest room of The Egg. It was not the usual crowd at roots music concerts in the area. They were 99% white, a good fourth of them arriving late for a 7:30 start. That said, three-quarters of them were on-site an hour before showtime. Predominantly over 60, they obviously had been following this amazing 72-year-old artist through his long and sterling career that’s had him playing and recording with everyone from Taj Mahal to Bonnie Raitt. I overheard one woman describing how her parents had driven her down the Thruway to the Woodstock Festival in 1969, got the lay of the land, and wouldn’t let her out of the car.
I lost count of the number of guitars Keb’ Mo’ played, but they included electric and acoustic models of different make and a steel guitar. His repertoire covered oldies like “She Just Wants to Dance” and material from his latest album, including the title cut “Good to Be” and “62 Chevy.” He was backed by a keyboardist, bass player, and drummer who were so tuned in to him after months on the road that they fused into a BAND and were more than just accompanists.
The staging was unique. Backed by a black curtain, there were dozens of bright lights behind the band facing into the audience that periodically accented specific songs.
The opening act was Anthony Damato, a young solo singer/songwriter from Brooklyn who would have been right in sync with the coffeehouse acts that played Greenwich Village and Harvard Square in the 1960s. He was warmly received by Keb’ Mo’s fans.
Having been a blues addict for more than half a century, it is encouraging to see an African American blues artist enjoy the kind of success that has earned Keb’ Mo’ five Grammys in a competition that has only two blues categories available to them, traditional and contemporary blues. He is an artist who can fill the Hart Theater and tour constantly for a year and a half after the release of his latest album. An artist who, in a hastily arranged interview day before his show, agreed that the best thing about being in your 70s is that you can do whatever the hell you want.
I know you’re waiting for the “but.” That “but” is that one of the wonderful things about blues is when the wheels come off in concert, and things get momentarily sloppy. The musician and his fans become one and let it all hang out. Keb’ Mo’ fits more comfortably into the Americana category. He even has an album titled Bluesamericana. And, hey, if he can soar with that kind of approach, who am I to knock him? He’s an incredibly talented performer who has removed the angst from his blues. For him, it’s not about catharsis so much as it is becoming a comfort blanket for a fanbase he’s spent more than half a century building and doing it with an original repertoire about people loving one another. And there’s certainly a place for artists like that in today’s world.
I have seen Keb’Mo’ 3 times once in St. Louis, once in KC and in Memphis in May but turned into Memphis in Mud! The Memphis concert in a tent with howling rain outside was magical. Of course he sound and playing was impeccable. Went with my 2 sons and daughter in law were right in front of Keb’ until She just wants to Dance, Juli climbed on stage and danced with the song in pure magic. It was quite memorable.
I see that Keb’ and Boz are playing Omaha this summer but only $200 orchestra seats are now open. Plan on getting tickets when basics ones are available but now sit in Mayo healing after my 3rd aortic aneurysm repair but should be leaving Sunday after infection problems are controlled. Suitcase got me through my first aneurysm repair.
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