Keb' Mo' Shows Off Command, Charisma As W.C. Handy Music Festival Headliner in Florence, AL

Keb' Mo' overcame a few rough spots to deliver an impressive performance in Florence, AL as the headliner of 2013 W.C. Handy Music Festival...
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Bluesman Keb' Mo' strode onto the stage in a pair of Converse sneakers and a fedora with three guitars and a harmonica waiting for him on the stage of Norton Auditorium in Florence, Alabama, where he played a headlining set at the annual W.C. Handy Music Festival.

The blues circuit is littered with festivals of the same name the world over, W. C. Handy acknowledged as the Father of The Blues, but Florence has a unique and special claim to this, being the birthplace of Handy- just one of many stories that makes the Florence-Muscle Shoals area such a vital one in the history of American music.

Mo' played over two hours and performed songs from throughout his career, drawing most heavily from Suitcase but also included a pair of songs from his 2011 studio album The Reflection. Mo' jokingly referred to it as the one that "confused the shit out of everybody."

Highlights of the performance included a fun, spirited performance of the wicked clever "Government Cheese," complete with a fine slide workout, as well as "Suitcase." He led into the song with a discussion about baggage and marriage that was both clever and rambling, forcing Mo' to abruptly stop and admonish himself for a shitty segue. He played the hell out of the song, investing fully in his vocal and soloing simultaneously on slide guitar and harmonica solo. "Perpetual Blues Machine" was another highlight from the evening.

He was upbeat and positive throughout the show, even when making a passing reference to the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman, accused of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida prior to playing his stirring "Just Like You."

The show was outstanding but not without a few problems. Mo' wasn't always precise on guitar even though he didn't offer up many extended solos or improvised workouts. It was also apparent he was fighting an ailment that left him coughing between songs and led to his voice thinning and straining at times, particularly near the show's end.

He didn't have to be perfect to make the evening worthwhile and it was, Mo' convincingly demonstrating his skills as an interpreter and showcasing an increasingly rich catalog of material from which to draw. Let's hope the new album he's working doesn't confuse the shit out of us and that he returns to the area to perform those new songs for us soon.

  1. Rita
  2. Government Cheese (slide)
  3. Life is Beautiful
  4. Muddy Water (harmonica rack)
  5. Suitcase (simultaneous slide and harmonica soloing)
  6. Whole Enchilada
  7. Perpetual Blues Machine
  8. Just Like You
  9. France
  10. Every Morning
  11. Shave Yo Legs
  12. We Don't Need It
  13. Give Me What You Got
  14. Closer
  15. A Better Man
  16. Whole Nutha Thang
  17. City Boy
  18. She Just Wants To Dance