C O N C E R T R E V I E W | E R I C B I B B
GOSPEL-INFUSED BLUESMAN KNOCKS 'EM OUT
By Dan Duke The Virginian-Pilot Dan Duke, (757) 446-2546, firstname.lastname@example.org
At the Attucks Theatre on Thursday, Eric Bibb sang, "Some days you get diamonds, some days nickels and dimes. Some days are outta tune, some days it all chimes."
That's from his song "Diamond Days." For the few hundred people who turned out to the historic Norfolk theater to see him, Bibb made it a diamond day.
In a loose-fitting shirt and pants, with his ever-present wide-brimmed hat, he played acoustic guitar and sang 23 songs.
If I could write as entertainingly as Mr. Bibb sings, by the end of this article you would have clapped and sung along, laughed, applauded wildly and maybe even cried a time or two. You would file the experience under the heading "Made life sweeter."
Bibb eased his audience into his gospel-infused brand of blues by starting out with a classic, "Goin' Down Slow," by St. Louis Jimmy, about a man who had made a lot of bad choices and doubted he would live through his latest ailments. Then Bibb did the classic "Stagger Lee," about a man who killed a drinking buddy over a hat. In both cases, his finger-picking guitar work was masterful, and his singing was deep, genuine and impeccably timed.
His third number, though, was his own "Shingle by Shingle," about fixing up a house, or life, that had fallen into disrepair. When he sang "new water's in the well, and I'm grateful for every drop," the corner had been turned from descent to redemption.
He introduced most songs with a story - often about how it came to be written. He got a laugh when he said, "Matrimonial bliss is not a big blues theme," but he went on to sing a bluesy love song about a couple that go together "like the grass and the morning dew."
That set up "Connected," which he dedicated to the audience. Such was the trust he had built, and his open-hearted manner, that when he got to the lines, "got my own way to sing - still I'm connected to you and everyone and everything," people could be seen wiping away tears. It wouldn't be the last time, either.
The next song, "Kokomo," about a friend in need, found Bibb really cutting loose with his singing, reaching beyond the natural gentleness that tended to restrain the power of his voice. This, too, was a moving number.
He soon got deeper into his gospel side, with stirring numbers: "Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down," "I Want Jesus to Walk With Me" (another opportunity to clear the tear ducts), "Get on Board" (the title song of his latest album), "Needed Time" (with people singing along and soaking hankies), "Water" (an ode to Hurricane Katrina's victims) and "I Heard the Angels Singin' " (with Bibb in fullthroated, growling voice and pounding guitar).
He eased into the closing segment of the evening with a flawlessly done "Diamond Days" and a crowd-pleasing "The Cape." Bibb said it was popular with fourth-graders everywhere, being about a boy who ties a flour-sack cape around his neck and jumps off the garage because he thinks he can fly. He grows into an old man who had lived, happily and well, by the motto "Spread your arms and hold your breath, and always trust your cape."
Bibb certainly did that Thursday night. Onstage with just a microphone, guitar and soul-baring songs, he "leapt" into the crowd - and they embraced him.
It's worth noting there was a warm-up act, the Hampton Roads-based MSG. Jackie Merritt (harmonica, guitar, vocals), Miles Spicer (guitar, vocals) and Resa Gibbs (washboard, kazoo, vocals) were spoton with their Piedmont blues songs. Gibbs was inspiring with her brave performance of "Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down" - with no backing instruments and not even using a microphone. Merritt's "Mean Church People" was a delight and showcased the band's wit and ability to harmonize.
DONE SPOKE MY MIND:
MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE:
Richmond Folk Music