Thursday, June 28 was the perfect evening for the blues underneath the Albany Corning Preserve Boat Launch. The passing of a thunderstorm didn’t stop blues fans from across the Capital Region and beyond, from as far as Chicago, Illinois, from coming to Albany to attend the 4th concert of the 2018 Alive at 5 Concert Series, featuring Tito Jackson of The Jackson 5 and former members of the B.B. King Blues Band, with special guests, The Age.
Infusing their own blend of funk and soul into their original tunes, The Age set the bar high as they brought out their funk and their soothing souls into Downtown Albany. Their short set was led on by The Age’s sister, who was providing the lead vocals throughout the evening. The Age, who happened to have a cold, wasn’t able to provide the vocals to his tunes. He was only able to provide some minimal backing vocals with his sister. Despite his lack of vocals, The Age was able to entice the audience with some sizzling guitar work on his lead solos on stage. Still, their set was just as fun and entertaining and set the mood for a great evening of blues.
The blues remained alive and strong in Greater Albany as blues night continued inside Corning Preserve. The audience, even patrons holding up The Jackson 5 signage along the front barrier of the main stage, was anticipating the wait of the B.B. King Blues Band and their featured guitarist and vocalist, Tito Jackson. Many music fans may remember Tito Jackson from another famous musical family, the Jackson 5. Paying homage to blues great, B.B. King and the Jackson 5, this band was electrifying and certainly brought on the heat to continue to ignite a spark in the love of blues through their music and through the energy of their fans, and new fans alike.
The B.B. King Blues Band, featuring band members Tito Jackson (lead guitar/vocals), Walter King (saxophone, B.B. King’s nephew), Darrell Lavigne (piano), Raymond Harris (trombone), James Bolden (vocals, with over 35 years as an original member of B.B. King’s Band), Russell Jackson (bass/upright bass/vocals), Herman Jackson (drums), Eric Demmer (saxophone), Lamar Boulet (trumpet), and Wilbert Crosby (lead guitar/vocals), were impressive and amazing to watch, paying homage to the late B.B. King as well as the Jackson 5 through a medley of tunes.
Ranging from B.B. King’s “Every Day I Have the Blues,” “Guess Who” and “The Thrill Is Gone” to standard blues songs such as “Big Boss Man,” “Rock Me Baby,” “A Dog Is Still a Dog” (Tito dedicated the tune to his late father Joe Jackson and brother Michael), and even the classic Jackson 5 hit tunes “I Want You Back,” “The Love You Save” and “A.B.C.” among others, the entire ensemble was on fire! The chemistry and the back to back interplay amongst the performers like Herman Jackson (drums) and Lavigne and Eric Demmer, to the guitar interplay by Wilbert Crosby, Russell Jackson (who was tip toeing towards the front of the stage playing the bass guitar as if it was a standard guitar, moving fast along the fret board), and Tito Jackson was captivating to watch! The emotion was certainly felt between the performers through their effortless performances within their song choices.
“I love the blues!,” shouted out bassist Russell Jackson after playing one of the songs during the start of their set! The crowd was certainly giving the band and Tito Jackson some love to their blues playing all evening, waving their arms in the air and swinging album art of the Jackson 5 towards the group for them to sign at a later time.
Upon entering the stage to perform a series of guitar solos during the middle of the B.B. King tune “Every Day I Have The Blues,” Tito Jackson took the time to thank the fans for their kind words and thoughts concerning the recent passing of his father and founder of the Jackson 5, Joe Jackson, who had passed away just two days shy of the 9 year anniversary of his son Michael’s death (June 25). Jackson had contemplated on whether or not he was going to cancel his Albany performance but had decided that the show must go on and performed in honor of both his father and brother. Jackson would also later dedicate “I Want You Back,” “The Love You Save” and “A.B.C.” to his loved ones and his fans. Concluding the evening with B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” Tito Jackson stood upon the large speakers and moved along the row to shake hands with his fans and sign autographs on their signage and other memorabilia while the band concluded the song to signal the end of an evening. Although the fans shouted out for an encore song from Jackson, there was no encore performance.
To be a part of watching two established performers such as the B.B. King Blues Band and Tito Jackson on the Alive at 5 Concert Stage was truly an honor and a privilege to be a part of this special evening underneath the Albany Corning Preserve Boat Launch. Great blues from these living and non-living legends continues to remain strong as shown through the eyes of these great performers that continue to keep their band members and family members’ legacies alive through the power of blues.