Keb'Mo & Solomon Burke @ SFJAZZ Nov. 21, 2009
The concert last night featuring Solomon Burke and Keb’Mo’ was awesome, especially the latter. Solomon Burke rolled in like a wave which continued to rise as he meandered down a lyrical memory lane sprinkled with tee-shirts, Mardi Gras beads, CDs and roses for the women. I was too far away to get any of the goodies but I felt the refreshing breeze. I’d see Burke before on stage a couple of years ago and he was just as wonderful—he’s dressed really fine and his big band features a full orchestra-horn section, vocalists and rhythm section. Periodically one of his singer/dancers—relative, maybe a granddaughter reached into his stash and pulled out a towel to wipe his brow or a seemingly endless supply of vases of red, long stemmed roses. The good times rolled for about an hour or 45 minutes as his audience was encouraged to get up and dance, I wish Keb’Mo’ would have did the same, but finally Burke’s set ended and the curtain fell right in the middle of the song and then as we sat listening to the rocking band back stage, he peeked out of the curtain—standing with support and smiled. It was a cinematic moment. Burke told us he had 21 children and 90 grands and I don’t remember how many great-grands. Famous for sculpting the soul music sound on Atlantic records in the early ‘60s with songs like: “Everybody Needs Somebody,” “Cry To Me,” Grammy winning, “Don’t Give Up On Me,” and “Like a Fire.” The ordained minister delivered a fiery healing which was still simmering when he left and the curtain rose on Keb’Mo’ singing a Sly Stone tune, “Family Affair.”
It’s funny, after the concert as we sat in the theatre—folks invited to Keb’Mo’ after party, were chatting with him, a woman who’d walked by him and then later did a back pedal said she didn’t know that Keb’Mo’ wrote the Sly tune. Keb’Mo’ quickly corrected her with, “No one wrote anything for Sly except one tune (which he named), and then went onto share an antecdote about meeting the musician in the airport whom no one recognized. He said the two had a great conversation—I’ll have to ask Mo’ what they talked about in a later conversation.
But it was all groovy, as Keb’Mo’ band played songs from his new release Keb’Mo’ Live& Mo’ on his label, Yolabelle International plus standards his fans knew or at least this one knew. One woman seated a few seats over from me leaned forward, her chin on her hand the entire evening in rap attentiveness. Only a few folks jumped up and danced until Keb’Mo’ announced his final song, “She Dance.”
Now that’s a song I should put in my phone and play when I go out to dance and then guys want to take me home (smile). It was really a woman-centered set: “She Dance,” “Shave Yo’ Legs” (as in you don’t have to for me, just be yo’self), “I’m On Your Side,” “Soon As I Get Paid (let me be your sugar daddy), “I’ll Be Your Water” (a beautiful ballad on acoustic guitar…a duet with the multi-instrumentalist, Jeff Pairs. It was like, oh I wish all men played these tunes on their lifeline soundtracks. And it’s not too late…I think everything he played is still available (smile).
After his opening song, Keb’Mo’ looked around the stage and noticed how empty it was, “Solomon Burke took everything away,” he commented—later on also telling his audience he got the name of the artist’s tailor and was going shopping Monday and get some proper threads.” I couldn’t even imagine Keb’Mo’ in anything but his jeans and denim vest, pork pie hat and short sleeved shirt—comfortable so he could dance on the stage with his guitar and his phenomenal bassist, Reggie McBride, who played multiple basses from upright to acoustic and electric. Les Falconer on drums rounded out the tight quartet. I think everyone sang background except the drummer, but then he was kept busy opening songs and laying the ground for the melodic excursions Keb'Mo', Paris and McBride were apt to take off on.
Keb'Mo' switched between 3-4 guitars throughout the evening, his standard a pretty red guitar, but he had a steel guitar for the slide guitar pieces, his acoustic and two others or maybe one other which had a steel section near the top. Watching the guitar caddy come off and on the stage was almost as fun as listening to the music--the coordination and choreography amusing.
The artist entertained us with stories of his career as he plugged in amps and then forgot they were plugged in. At one point, after signing an autographed record circa 1980 between songs he said as he handed the album back, "The end of that career--where did you get that album, EBay? I wondered where all the hair went," and laughed, "No don't show it around." The photo on the album one of Keb'Mo' in an afro.
I loved “Victims,” his second tune of the evening which spoke of America’s luxury and how our materialism was really a handicap. I decided I would hum it to myself on my first transatlantic trip next month when I missed something like hot water or refrigeration or tap water I could drink.
“Life is Beautiful” was also great along with the fun “Government Cheese” (black folks love their mac and cheese.) The more Keb’Mo’ one hears the more one loves because his writing is so good. It just makes sense, so much sense one finds herself singing along listening to the words and their lessons as the meaning sinks in…intention and merit, two items always present in a Keb’Mo’ tune. He is truly one of today’s most understated djalis or griots…truth-sayers, lyrical healers, record keepers.
Oh, did I mention that not only could folks take photos, drinks were allowed in the auditorium. The ushers told me the vendor took out extra insurance for damages. I think that was pretty cool. I had water, but others had sticky beverages which were covering the floor afterwards where they'd spilled.