Ascent 92 – Keb Mo at The Space

Two firsts for tonight: Going to The Space theater in Westbury NY and seeing Keb Mo perform live. Sue had grabbed some discount tickets a month or so ago, and tonight was the night.

I love the blues and have long enjoyed a variety of artists & styles like BB King, Muddy Waters, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Gary Moore, ZZ Top, Robert Cray, Jeff Healey and more. There’s just something about a wailing blues lead solo that touches my soul.

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I confess, I wasn’t familiar with Keb Mo’s music and was keen to experience it. The Space is a small venue in Westbury, which is about 7 miles from where we live. It was pretty well laid out and the seats were comfortable. The rows were a bit too close together, making it very difficult to leave your seat without getting to know your neighbors a little too well.

Then, it was show time. He came on stage solo at first with an acoustic guitar, took a seat and started playing. He just played for a bit, then started singing. Then he added harmonica. The whole show felt like it was progressive, adding elements, musicians, variety as it went on. The initial songs were reminiscent of the classic blues in the Mississippi delta.

The drummer joined him on stage, then the keyboard player and bassist. All were versatile musicians, playing a variety of instruments and singing.

Keb Mo’s playing was amazing and he is a very talented guitarist. He varied from classic 12-bar chords & licks, to bluegrass style picking and the banjo. He made frequent use of the slide, which is one of my favorite sounds. His lead and blues riffs were phenomenal, with that rich sound that only comes from double-coil pickups and a tube amplifier.

When he got the show started, the blues was more upbeat & funky, keeping the energy up and feet tapping. He is a gifted entertainer also, interacting with the audience and frequently sharing wit & humor.

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After the intermission, Gerald Albright joined the band with his saxophone and was simply amazing. The notes he could reach and sustain were incredible. Keb was sporting a beautiful teal classic-style Gibson semi acoustic.

The energy continued to escalate as each member of the band got to showcase their skills with a solo and Keb & Gerald trading off from guitar leads to saxophone blasts, with perfect hand offs.

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As the show was nearing the end, Keb, Gerald and the bass player headed off stage while they were playing, shortly to appear on the floor and heading up the center aisle, much to the delight of the audience. After a few minutes, they retraced their steps, ending up back on stage.

They came back to do a couple of encores, again riding the wave of the energy in the house and managing to raise it a bit higher. And then, it was time for the last song and Keb totally downshifted the energy to conclude the set with a beautiful, bluesy rendition of America the Beautiful.

A rocking start to this Spring weekend.

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