Doheny Beach Blues Festival at Doheny State Beach -- Concert Review

You didn't have to go very far to beat the 83-year-old B.B. King at his own longstanding game, and a bunch of guitar guys did just that on the second day of the Doheny Beach Blues Festival.

One of them was the Rolling Stone cover boy and 30-next-month prodigy Derek Trucks. He spent many minutes being prodigious, ingenious, virtuosic and deadpan before he was joined by the great Elvin Bishop for a scorching jam that put a smile on his legendary frozen puss. Bishop had brought a band of his own for the Saturday program, but Sunday he soared with Trucks' group.

This was a highlight of a day that was full of them.

New Orleans native Kenny Neal provided blues with a feeling, as the saying goes, to take command of his set with the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue. Revue leader Tommy Castro, another guitarist, had preceded him, but Neal made him hard to remember.

Coco Montoya, a former drummer and a protege of the late Albert Collins, poured it on with flawless execution and a rich flow of ideas early in the afternoon.

But it wouldn't be the blues without a harp player, and Phillip Walker held up that banner. He and the Hollywood Blue Flames purveyed a laid-back, 1930s and '40s feeling with no help from any screechers.

That was not the case with Buckwheat Zydeco, who was forbidden by his doctor to play his customary accordion licks and manned the Hammond B3 instead. The band, with his son subbing for him on accordion, kept up a howl with the aid of a bebopping trumpet man and a couple of gray-haired guitar players. It was almost completely unconvincing.
That could not really be said of King, of course, who has forgotten more about the blues than all of the above have known. But he rambled on about digging his grave with a silver spade and buying a tombstone after being pronounced dead. He ladled out the Southern courtesy in his endearing way, but when it came time to play his guitar -- whatever happened to Lucille? -- it came out fumbly and disconnected.

But as he said more than once, he's 83.

Venue: Doheny State Beach, Dana Point, Calif. (Sunday, May 17)