Published on December 10th, 2012 | by Jon Santiago0
Keb’ Mo’ Got ’em Dancing in the Aisles at the Music Hall
Charleston Music Hall, Dec. 7
It’s been a while since blues man (and recent White House guest) Keb’ Mo’ (a.k.a. Kevin Moore) last made his way to the Holy City and Charleston fans were ready. Not far into his Friday (Dec. 7) show at the Charleston Music Hall, they began calling out requests. The affable singer/guitarist was happy to oblige. In fact, he eventually decided to chuck the set list altogether.
“Oh, man!” he said, laughing at himself. “That’s not going to do me any good.” He looked down for the redundant list at his feet and kicked it away. The crowd whooped in triumph. It was this kind of easy give and take that defined the evening’s show.
At one point between songs, as an audience member headed down the center aisle toward the lobby bar, Moore called after him, “Hey man, why don’t you bring me back a bag of potato chips?” The chips never materialized, but another fan came to the edge of the stage later and handed up a Coke Zero to him. His comment: “Never had one of these. Got to watch my girlish figure. What’s it taste like? Mmm. Zero calories. Tastes great!”
Moore, who is often considered the contemporary inheritor of Robert Johnson’s tradition — he even portrayed the legendary blues man in the documentary Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl? — has built his career expanding that tradition while keeping true to its spirit, work that’s earned him three Grammy awards so far.
For this solo performance, Moore kept things down-to-the-roots simple, alternating among his signature 12-fret Gibson and a pair of National resonator guitars. While the electrified R&B flavor of his most recent studio release The Reflection, got some acoustic love with renditions of “Crush On You” and “The Whole Enchilada,” most of the show drew from his well-established, bluesy songbook. “Every Morning” and “Am I Wrong” from his first, eponymous album, vied with more recent cuts “Government Cheese” and “France” as audience winners.
In performance, Moore’s charm is infectious. His wry humor is especially evident in those songs about the dodgy state of modern romance and in the stage patter that introduces them, like his intro for one crowd favorite, “Suitcase.”
“Ten years ago,” Moore told his audience, “I found out I got problems.” The admission drew cheers and laughter. “Yeah, all kind of dysfunctional family stuff. And I didn’t want to spread that stuff around.” This led him to work with a therapist, an effort which presumably made for a better Keb’ Mo’ and also yielded the sly, self-aware “Suitcase” — a slam-dunk for that long overdue Grammy category: Best Song Resulting From Therapy. Friday’s audience laughed right along with Moore’s “funny-cause-it’s true” lyrics. In this, as in all his best songs, Moore shows off his genuine blues credentials: dead-on accurate descriptions of how this “stuff” works in real life.
Audience participation wasn’t limited to laughing along with the jokes, either. “Hand it Over” from the 1996 album, “Just Like You” had the crowd enthusiastically clapping and singing along, as spirited as a church choir.
And then there was the dancing. Moore had launched into the eminently danceable “Shave Yo’ Legs” when one couple let their happy feet take them swinging and swaying down in front of the stage. They were — “exuberant” is probably a good word for it. And that may have been what ultimately prompted a security staffer to try leading them back to their seats. From the stage, Moore rallied to their cause.
“No, no, no, no,” he said to the suddenly confused security guy and then smoothed things over, teasingly. “I’ll pay their fine!” The crowd broke into thunderous applause.
Could there be any doubt what the night’s final encore had to be? That space down front turned into a hip-wiggling, dancing-room-only zone for “She Just Wants To Dance.”
Afterward, someone described the evening this way, “It was everything I was hoping for from a Keb’ Mo’ show.” Can’t ask for better than that.
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