Keb Mo played to a sold out show at The Aladdin Theater Wednesday night. You could tell the audience was made up of ardent fans by the questions they threw out and the familiarity they had with each song. His set list included 16 songs during his 1 ¾ hour set followed by a three song encore. Several came from his new album, BluesAmericana, which has already reached #1 on the iTunes Blues Chart, and marks the 20th anniversary of his debut album, “Keb Mo.”
Keb was playful, funny, and relaxed, befitting the way most Portlanders are feeling after the past few days of warm, sunny weather. Having just arrived here last night, he spent the day shopping downtown (Nordstrom’s was one destination), and had a friend deliver Voodoo donuts, a maple bar to be exact. Someone yelled out asking if he’d had their bacon maple bar and he remarked no, “You guys are going deep, maybe next time.” Someone else said, “Keep Portland Weird” and he said, “It’s weird alright but please don’t change.”
He started the night off with ‘Closer’ from the 2011 release of ‘Keep it Simple’. Joining him onstage was Casey Wasner, (co-producer of the new album), on drums, and Tom Shinness, who switched between the guitar, mandolin, harp-guitar and cello. At times he even played the cello like a guitar.
During ‘Life is Beautiful’, he introduced it as a “nice little ditty,” a “theme song for Ventura County; it’s a nice place.” It’s a happy song, celebrating that life is beautiful, life is wondrous, and the sun is shining bright. This could well be a theme song for life in general.
He really had the women cheering to ‘Shave Yo Legs’ because he’s telling us “you don’t have to shave your legs for me, you don’t have to clean my house, or wash my clothes”. Just “be yourself and I will too, that’s all we have to do”.
He sat down to play a few songs, and while he tuned his guitar at one point, he said he was going to sing a song from his most misunderstood record. “Which one?,” he was asked. “All of ‘em,” he said. Then he chuckled and said, “I liked that, that was good.” He said people didn’t like his album, ‘Reflection’. Reviewers were asking, “Where’s Keb?” His answer was “right here,” and that he liked the album a lot, and then he launched into ‘The Whole Enchilada.’ After the song ended, someone yelled out “some of us liked it.” and he replied, “All you need is one person to like it.”
When he started playing from the new album, he said his wife hated ‘Old me Better’. With lyrics like, “I was a lot more fun, I’d sleep all day and party all night,” or “I am a different man cuz of you but I like the old me better,” it wasn’t hard to figure out why she might not like the song. I think a lot of men in the audience were nodding in agreement to that one, however.
While Keb tuned his guitar another time, he had Tom introduce his harp-guitar. He said it was a 1913 Gibson, and had ten extra bass notes. He then played a little excerpt from his solo c.d. demonstrating its beautiful harp and guitar sounds, all from one instrument.
After exclaiming that he talks too much, and sometimes gets tired of hearing himself talk, he ended his set with the foot stompin ‘The Worst is Yet to Come’.
He came back for an encore with ‘Am I wrong’, ‘She just wants to Dance’ and then the finale ‘City Boy’: “can’t find my way, I want to be where my soul can run free”, “want to go somewhere where the buffalo roam, I’m just a city boy.” By the last song, the audience was standing, cheering, and dancing. He is a master at putting on a show that leaves you satisfied, happy, and excited for the next one.
In true Keb Mo fashion, his music is a representation of who he is and what he likes. He doesn’t worry about which genre it fits into; he just wants to make something he’s happy with. Lucky for us, we happen to like it too!
P.S. Here’s Keb talking about his latest album: