Delbert McClinton / B.B. King Blues Club & Grill / New York, NY / July 25, 2014

He’s baaack, and badder than ever. Delbert McClinton was forced to postpone his April show at B.B. King’s (and his show at New Orleans’ Jazz Fest, where he was scheduled to close the blues tent) following bypass surgery, but now this Texas blues rocker is glued back together and delivering the goods as only he can.

Delbert McClinton, BB King Blues Club
Photo Credit: George Kopp

Playing the first half of his set virtually nonstop, McClinton’s excellent backing band went heavy on the horns and keyboards, just to keep up. In the second half of his nearly two-hour performance, McClinton began playing with the audience. A smart, funny guy, he ragged someone in the first row mercilessly about chewing gum: “Security!” While hawking the band’s own CD, he admonished the sold-out house: “Try to remember what you paid for a gram of coke in comparison to an 11-song CD. Put it in perspective,” and sweet-talked the girls in the audience, who predictably melted like Tasti D-Lites in the sun.

Perhaps a little raspier than usual, McClinton delivered the goods with interest. “When Rita Leaves,” one of my personal favorites, showed up, as did some of his newer tunes from last year’s album with Glen Clark, like “More and More, Less and Less,” and of course hits like “Every Time I Roll the Dice” and “Giving It Up for Your Love,” but I was delighted to hear music that I’d never heard before.

Delbert McClinton, BB King Blues Club
Photo Credit: George Kopp

In the grand McClinton tradition of twisting blues tunes into loony tunes, two songs are worth noting at length: “Bad Haircut” explains how he’s stuck at home in bed with a bad haircut, and includes lyrics like, “I had a part-time job, but it was too much work,” and, “I woke this morning with a knife in my back, so I’m keeping a low profile.” It sounded like “What A Wonderful World” had gone over to the dark side. Similarly, “Down into Mexico” describes how, “She took the blame, he took the money, I took a bullet in my chest.” Lyrics right up there with Townes Van Zandt, if you ask me.

McClinton’s whole performance just shouted, “Man, am I glad to be here!” so it was probably no accident that the encore was 1997’s “Sending Me Angels.” I suspect Delbert’s no angel, but damn, it sure seemed like we got one sent to us last Friday.

– Suzanne Cadgène

 

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