Ithaca Blog

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pat And Brian Burke, And B.B. King, And Joy At The State Theater

We just return from the State Theater, where we see our brother Paddy and his son Brian play acoustic blues as opening act for B.B. King. Let me repeat that: B.B. King. Heard of him? Would it make you nervous? (Not watching, I mean playing. It did make me nervous, though, waiting for the start.)

If it did Paddy, you couldn't tell. He took the stage smiling and seemed completely relaxed. I don't know how relaxed I would be sauntering onto a stage in front of a sold-out (1500 persons) crowd who paid a lot of money to see Mr. King, a blues legend.

B.B. King has his reputation and qualifications, going back decades, the best of the best, the most famous bluesman alive. He also has eight musicians behind him who are the best in the world. You (I mean Pat) have an acoustic guitar; plus your son, very talented and so close with you, coming out halfway through the set with his fiddle; and then what? Your skills and your desire to connect.

Tonight was a lesson in how far those things can go. The performance was nothing but joyful and engaging. Joy and engagement, and a respect for music in general and the blues in particular, are the reasons Pat and Brian started playing in the first place. Tonight, it all showed.

After two numbers, Paddy mentioned to the crowd that he spoke to our father on the phone yesterday about the gig. Dad is a Tony Bennett kind of guy, but loves music, so at least knows who B.B. King is. He congratulated Pat and, as Pat told the crowd, mentioned that yesterday was the tenth anniversary of our mother's death. Dad said, she will be there with you. "So - hi, Mom," Paddy said. "I'm going to play her favorite song now" - "Come Back, Baby," by Snooks Eaglin.

As promoter Dan Smalls said tonight in welcoming the crowd, "The State Theater is our communal living room for great events like this." Little did he know, or maybe he did. Nah, how could he. But maybe he does now. We hope he is smoking a big promoter-style cigar right now, reflecting on the triumph of the night.(Thanks, Dan, for the evening, and all you bring to downtown.)

And, of course, thank you B.B. King. Our honor, all around.

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