B.B. King With Ruth Brown & Bobby "Blue" Bland | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

B.B. King With Ruth Brown & Bobby "Blue" Bland 

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If this were just B.B. and Bobby, it might not be noteworthy. King's show is always entertaining and occasionally transcendant, but we've seen it all before; Bland's voice these days usually sounds as if he's abused it past the point of reclamation, and he often seems as if he's phoning in his performances. But Ruth Brown is a dynamic and legendary performer who's reclaiming her place among R & B royalty. Brown has lost little of the powerful vocal elegance that skyrocketed her to fame back in the late 40s; she's one of the most musical of all R & B entertainers, with a feel for harmonic and rhythmic nuance that allows her to immerse herself in a swinging jazz arrangment as easily as a rough-edged R & B backing. Her performances serve as exhuberant rituals of renewal after years of undeserved obscurity; and her showstopper, "If I Can't Sell It (I'm Gonna Keep Sittin' on It)," is an anthemic celebration of sass and pulchritude that provides a welcome, brash challenge to the anorexic callowness of much contemporary pop. Tonight, 8 PM, and Saturday, 7 and 11 PM, Star Plaza Theatre, I-65 and U.S. 30, Merrillville, Indiana; 734-7266.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher, Paul Natkin.

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