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Keb' Mo' at Mesa Arts Center

Patricia Myers By

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Keb' Mo'
Mesa Arts Center
Mesa, Arizona
May 15, 2014

Roots-bluesman Keb' Mo' enthralled a full-house audience with his wide-ranging tribute to American blues, singing and playing acoustic, electric and slide guitars, banjo and harmonica.

Varying his repertoire among old-fashioned country blues, soul and folk-style storytelling, the 62-year-old replicated the attitude and energy of his earlier years. Although touring to promote his new album, BLUESAmericana (Kind of Blue Music, 2014), he delivered plenty of his older repertoire along with newer pieces.

Playing a in a trio setting, he opened with his 1998 hit, "Everything I Need." Then he performed two solidly satisfying hours that reprised his 20-year career, 11 albums and three Grammy awards.

His original charts such as "Same Damn Thing," "The Whole Enchilada" and "House in California" continue to be social commentary applicable to any decade. He was born Kevin Moore in South Los Angeles, with early exposure to gospel music via his Southern-born parents. He began to develop his style during a busking period that resulted in a merger of those roots with modern-world lyrics amid elements of New Orleans stomps, Texas shuffles, and Memphis- and Chicago-style blues.

This concert included longtime fan favorites such as "Shave Yo' Legs," "Government Cheese," "She Just Wants to Dance" and "France." He also reprised "Somebody Hurt You," "Dangerous Mood," "Worst Is Yet to Come," "Suitcase" and "Old Me Better." Along the way, he introduced some of the new album's songs, including "Do It Right," I'm Gonna Be Your Man," "More for Your Money" and "So Long Goodbye."

He surprisingly played the 1938 hit "Flat Foot Floogie," an oldie that enticed the multi-age audience to sing along. His own voice occasionally cracked, probably due to "Arid"-zona's super-dry climate, despite frequently swigging from a bottle of water as most touring musicians know to do in the Southwest.

His colleagues elevated the concert content. Drummer Casey Wasner worked with a minimalistic percussion kit of small bass drum, one snare and two cymbals, also supplying backup vocals. And then there was Tom Shinness, a multi-instrumentalist whose 1913 Gibson harp-guitar was an eye-boggling 16-string hybrid that contributed an ethereal sound. Shinness, who also sang harmony and played electric bass and mandolin, reached for his cello on ballads, playing it as an upright, but also slung across his body guitar-style, to the surprised delight of the audience.

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