Keb Mo January 16, 2010
Keb Mo and More at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
The last time I saw Keb Mo perform at Cerritos I thought maybe the show could not get better since it was the best of the year in 2002. Before that he made his mark as an opening act at the Center and demonstrated definite star qualities evidenced in his marvelously fluid guitar work, his rich, expressive voice and fine songwriting skills. On Saturday night he came back and more than conquered the full-house at the Performing Arts Center doing all that and more. Keb Mo has only grown better, stronger and more polished within a genre that sort of demands raw edges. On this night he also made an extremely wise choice of inviting the perfect accompanist in Susan Werner who astounded with her command of various instruments and awesome set of pipes. Ms. Werner is an established folk-singer-songwriter in her own “write” but here she humbly stayed with Keb Mo and made him look better on every song. Of course, he is terrific all by his lonesome which he was on several intimate tunes but overall the two musicians were a perfect pairing. It was fun to hear the uninitiated crowd gasp when Susan Werner first opened up her big voice and hit some high notes with Keb Mo smiling off to the side.
Certainly the Keb Mo repertoire just gets better and better the more he matures and it doesn’t hurt to be able to throw in gems like “I’m a Hero,” “Life Is Beautiful,” “More Than One Way Home” and “Just Like Me” that are met with shouts of joy from the enthusiastic fans in the audience. Yet, this concert was solid throughout with no duds in twenty-two songs, including a generous helping of four encores. Interestingly enough he started the proceedings with a Johnny Cash tune “Folsom Prison Blues” and mixed in a banquet of good stuff balanced nicely between blues and ballad. There was the sentimental like “I’m a Hero,” “Henry,” “A Better Man” and the double delights of “One Friend,” and “Closer” that gave you a lump in the throat. There were the traditional shout outs to ladies, in particular “Eileen” and “Angelina.” These were balanced by lighter fair such as “the Bucket,” “City Boy,” “Government Cheese,” “Soon as I Get Paid,” “Shave Yo’ Legs for Me,” and “Whole Nutha Thing” that showed the jocular side of the blues. This kind of music is not easy to perform in a large hall but Keb Mo never seems daunted by the space and filled the auditorium with sweet sounds despite changing instruments constantly and sending notes flying from several genres from song to song. Even at this high level Keb Mo outdid himself a couple of times, like on the spiritual “Hand It Over” and the utterly saucy “What You Got” that left a nice bluesy taste in the hall. The standing ovation lasted so long some folks in the hall had to sit down for the last gushing segment of appreciation. Considering that Keb Mo delivers lyrics that are just downright poetry and plays five guitars like a master while singing up to the highest blues standards I think Cerritos was very lucky to have this young man on their stage.