Concert preview: Living legend B.B. King carried his musical love affair into his late 80s.

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From the May 22, 2014 edition

Most romances are doomed to fail. Yet, despite the odds, B.B. King has carried on a love affair with Lucille for more than six decades now. It helps, of course, that Lucille is the name the bluesman has bestowed on his guitars since he was a much younger man, and not, you know, an actual woman.

Even so, King, 88, can conjure a range of emotions from his instrument that give it weirdly human characteristics, bending bluesy notes like brokenhearted teardrops, plucking out fluttering arpeggios that mimic the sensation of being newly in love and hammering out ramshackle riffs that come on like an epic temper tantrum, announcing to all in their path one best steer clear.

While best known for his guitar skills, King also has an inviting, weathered set of pipes that he can employ to fantastic effect, particularly on slower numbers. Unfortunately, he can become a bit too enamored with his own voice at times, and concerts will sometimes become unmoored amidst the stream of rambling, Grandpa Simpson-esque monologues. When he’s on his game, though, which doesn’t happen with past regularity, the living legend can still devastate and invigorate in equal turns.

Hurricane Jerry & Stormfront open the show.

Photo courtesy of B.B. King