By Joe Rector
I had no idea who Keb’ Mo’ was, not until Covid hit and drove us all inside. Amy and I made a habit of watching “The Opry” every Saturday night, and on one show the man was performing with Vince Gill. Since that minute, I’ve enjoyed Keb’ Mo’, and he’s one of my favorites. So, when he appeared in Knoxville the other Friday night, Amy and I were seated and waiting for his entrance.
Concerts are funny events. This one had unique characteristics. First off, the place was filled with plenty of gray and colored hair and heads with no hair at all. On our side of the Tennessee Theater were four young people. Being the nosy person I am, I made my way down the aisle and tapped one of them on the shoulder. He told me that his dad played in a bluegrass band and had introduced him to Keb’ Mo’’s music. The other three were his friends and said they also liked it.
Another characteristic of this crowd was the way they entered the venue and found their seats. Many waited for one of the helpers to direct them or walk them to the seats. Amy and I figured we knew the alphabet well enough to find Row M, and my poor math skills weren’t so bad that I couldn’t see numbers 103 and 104. When folks found their seats, the women simply sat down, but men lined up their behinds and plopped wearily into the seats.
A couple of annoying conditions always arise at concerts, especially those attended by old people. The late arrivers or individuals who make several trips in and out would be the first. Rising and sitting aren’t so easy for many of us with gimpy limps or worn-out backs. The up and down wears us out and intensifies the pain. The other thing is that intermissions are always twice the length. I suppose that’s for us old guys who’ve never passed a bathroom we didn’t like. The time for the show to begin surprised me because it was 8:00 p.m. The opening act sang for 45 minutes, and by the time Keb’ Mo’ stepped on stage, it was after 9:00. No, I won’t turn into a pumpkin if I stay out late, but I was plenty tired of the week’s activities and fretted that I might fall asleep.
As usual with our age group, the high-pitched voices of women and the grumbling of men were scattered throughout the theater. Also, the management must have calculated the average age of the crowd and assumed we’d be cold. Therefore, they turned the thermometer to bake, and before long, the place was stifling. Folks began to emit that “mamaw/papaw smell“ that comes with sweat, the same scent that is in most old peoples’ houses.
Keb’ Mo’ came on stage, and another peculiar thing occurred. The crowd remained seated and listened to this wonderful artist perform blues music, as well as other songs that might be called “light blues.” Only one woman down front decided to get up and dance, but only for one verse.
Unfortunately, the heat and my bad back got the best of me. I was nauseated and writhing in pain. We left before the encore. Still, it was a fabulous night listening to one of the best blues singers of our time, and what made him even better is the fact that he was the same age as the audience. Thank you, Keb’ Mo’, for a night to remember.