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by Paula Towers
posted 17/04/2019

REVIEW: Living Blues Legend Keb’ Mo’ Plays Factory Theatre

Keb’ Mo’ @ Factory Theatre. Marrickville, Tuesday 16 April 2019

Reviewed by Paula Towers

Renowned as one of America’s greatest living blues artists, Keb’ Mo’ [from his original name Kevin Moore] is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter and has won four Grammy Awards.

The latest Grammy was awarded in 2018 for TajMo, his collaborative album with another legend Taj Mahal. Starting to record in the early 1970s with Jefferson Airplane violinist Papa John Creach, it was Keb’ Mo’s second album, Just Like You, released in 1996 and featuring guest appearances from Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt, that won him his first Grammy.

There have been many hits in between as well as an impressive, original arrangement of “America the Beautiful”, which he performed on the 2006 series finale of hit TV drama The West Wing.

Many of those hits were enthusiastically requested by the audience at a recent Bluesfest Sideshow held on April 16, at Sydney’s Factory Theatre in Marrickville.

Happily obliging, Keb’ Mo’ played old sentimental favourites as well as his more recent ones, ranging from “You Can Love Yourself” [Just Like You, 1996] House in California” [Keep It Simple, 2004]; to “Government Cheese” and “Perpetual Blues Machines” [Live and Mo’, 2009], as well as “I’ll be Your Water” [Suitcase, 2006], which he told Eastside FM was one of his favourites, along with “Eileen” and “Henry”.

His great range was also exemplified in the music choices for the two encores which were met with raucous applause, especially from the female members of the audience, who appreciated “She Just Wants to Dance” [1994] as well as the supportive, women-friendly lyrics of “Put a Woman in Charge” [2018] encouraging female empowerment.

As well as vocals, Keb’ Mo’ is proficient on a number of musical instruments; he treated the audience to his virtuosity on several, including acoustic as well as two steel guitars, and harmonica.

The capacity crowd – with many standing, was gratefully acknowledged by Keb’ Mo: “I’m proud that blues music has resonated throughout the world,” he told the audience.

And what is his first memory of the blues? “As a kid, listening to blues records at my mother’s cousin’s place on Sunday afternoons,” he shared with Eastside FM. Now here in Australia, his fourth visit, he was looking forward to Bluesfest: “The lineup is incredibly impressive!”

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