Published on April 15, 2013 at 8:00 pm
By LAUREN HALLIGAN
As Massry Center for the Arts was transformed into an exquisite gala-hosting venue on Sunday, the stage was being set for the King of Blues, the legendary B.B. King, to perform.
“It’s a once in a life time opportunity for the college,” said President Szczerbacki, who is a big fan. Enjoying the party, he pointed out that the real story of the night was the fifth anniversary of the Massry Center, and that “B.B. King is sort of like the icing on the cake.” Whatever people were celebrating, “This is a good day for The College of Saint Rose,” Szczerbacki declared.
The three floors of the Massry building were cleverly titled and gourmet catered for the reception beforehand, which began at 5 p.m. The lobby was known as Beale Street, the second floor Lucille’s Piano Bar, and Riley’s 1925 Club was on the top level, complete with Cajun cuisine and entertained by The Dylan Perillo orchestra, a local jazz ensemble. Beale Street, the busiest of the three, hosted a purple-suited trio featuring Jonathon “Boogie” Long from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the senior art show on display in Esther Massry gallery for gala attendees to browse. Each floor at the black tie event also had its own open bar.
A sea of people, comprised of women in extravagant gowns and men in tuxedos holding wine glasses was sprinkled with waiters browsing around with top-notch hors d’oeuvres. These well-dressed people were a good mixture of trustees, board members, students, and faculty, all art appreciators. Ice sculptures and red rose centerpieces added a classy touch, to the already-upscale venue.
A special table was reserved for the Massry in the hub of excitement on the first floor.
“It’s important to have a place in the Capital District for the Arts,” said Morris Massry before the concert.
At 7:30 p.m., Szczerbacki opened the night, followed by the youngest Massry generation, who both thanked sponsors for making the evening possible. Finally, Massry Center for the Arts Programming Manager Sal Prizio had the honor of introducing B.B. King and his entourage.
King walked on stage after a bombastic blues intro from his fellow-musicians and greeted the full house. He received a standing ovation upon arrival in his signature sparkly gold jacket. The band still playing his introduction, King sat down and joined in with Lucille, his also-legendary electric guitar.
“Thank you for coming out and letting us do what we try to do” said a humble and self-critical B.B. King, as he began playing one of his slower bluesy tunes.
Upon seeing King perform, his priceless facial expressions, enthusiastic body language, mixed with his smooth tone assured concert-goers that they would be thoroughly entertained.
King openly announced that he’s 87 years old, and used that as his selling-point for comedy banter throughout the night.
King acknowledged the celebration of the fifth year of the Massry Center for The Arts, wishing “all the best to all of you” in the crowd.
A charming gentleman, he dedicated the next song “I Need You So” to “all [the] lovely people” in the audience.
The blues legend appropriately performed “Every Day I HaveThe Blues,” originally written by Peter Chapman, with emotion in each lyric sung by his smooth, soulful voice.
King had an impressive total of eight band mates on stage with him, who performed with the twinkling electric Massry curtain behind them.
King swayed in his chair to the sexy tune “Rock Me Baby,” keeping the energy in his voice for love song “Darlin’ You Know I Love You.” Each song was full of improvised solos by all members of the band.
The next tune was familiar to all in the room, when Lucille sounded the melody of “You Are My Sunshine.” To up the adorability of this scene, a sing along ensued when King directed the ladies to sing the chorus with him, and then afterward, on the count of four, to kiss someone in the crowd, for which the house lights were brought up. Many in the audience participated in this silly, but light-hearted request.
King, with a huge smile on his face, chuckled at the hilarity of this scene, before being kissed on the hand by a woman in the crowd.
A comedian as well, King picked on certain crowd members as part of his act. He showed the men who did not receive a smooch during the song how to properly pucker.
Next on the setlist was the popular bass-driven soul song “The Thrill is Gone,” one of his best known hits. This was followed by another King classic “Guess Who.”
A true performer, after doing so for 60 years, King knows how to entertain a crowd. Although the 87-year old sat down center stage in a chair for the show, King showed no lack of energy or spirit as he danced in his seat rocking back and forth, smiled ear to ear, snapped his fingers, bounced his knees, and hooted and hollered on the more upbeat songs.
For his final number, King told the crowd about his tours with Willie Nelson, and how they would always end with “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Modeled off of Nelson’s tasteful tune of departure, King’s ensemble performed a blues rendition of the classic, which turned into another sing-along prompted by King.
“You’ve been so good to us,” King said. His last words to the crowd that evening were “I love you,” and an assurance to the crowd that anytime Saint Rose wanted this “old blues guy” back, just to call him.
After the roughly hour-long set without a note out of place, he handed out goodies like guitar picks and necklaces, signed programs, and interacted with members of crowd individually, with the band still behind him playing the marching tune.
Eager to interact with the crowd, King was flooded with fans looking for a handshake, and autograph, or simply to share a story with the blues legend, as others proceeded out of the hall to the coffee and dessert reception awaiting in the lobby.
A sweet-talking old man, “I haven’t seen so many handsome gentlemen and beautiful ladies in my 87 years,” King said to fans waiting for autographs.
A true performer, King said that his favorite part of performing on stage has consistently been “you ladies,” addressing a small group of women gathered around him.
Although the event sold out in less than a month, over a dozen tickets were still held for students which were distributed in a lottery for music majors.
Paul Jenkins, first to win the student lottery, said “Being a senior and getting to do this, it’s awesome,” stating that it’s one of biggest events he’s been to on campus during his academic career.
“It was inspiring, entertaining, exciting,” said music major John Fatuzzo, a junior. “Their feel and sense of the style was beyond anything I’ve ever heard.”
“It’s unbelievable for a man of that stature to be in this community and it took the Massrys to bring him here, ” said concert-goer Gene Tarder, deeming it a “glorious event.” Tarder also noted that the Massry center was a gorgeous venue, and that “every student and every person involved has been welcoming and gracious.”