B.B. King is 88 years old, and in his life, he’s played so many shows that even blues historians can only guess at an approximate total. In 1995, it was estimated he had played some 14,000 shows — at that point, he had been averaging 300 shows a year for 47 years. And that was nearly two decades ago! He’s slowed down since then, of course, but not much. Point is, B.B. King has surely been booed plenty in his time as a performer. But nothing like what happened Friday night in St. Louis. At the Peabody Opera House, King delivered a performance that, per Billboard, “included only a handful of complete songs amid musical snippets, long-winded soliloquies and a 15-minute sing-along of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ with the house lights inexplicably up.” King was eventually booed badly by much of the audience.
In a review for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Daniel Durchholz wrote:
For a while, the audience was with him, laughing at his jokes and asides. But it was 45 minutes into the show before King performed anything resembling a song. Even then, his playing was shaky. He explained that he and the band had been off for two months, causing him to lose confidence.
After a capable run-through of “Rock Me Baby,” he played “You Are My Sunshine” and asked the crowd to sing along. The house lights came up and King began noticing individuals and waving to them. As the song went around again and again, nattering on for — and this is not a misprint — 15 minutes, audience members began to heckle, yelling out requests or simply calling for King to “play some music!” Some walked out.
King sensed trouble, but he couldn’t understand the things being yelled at him. Eventually, the music stopped and the show ground to an intensely uncomfortable halt.
It’s a brutal, heartbreaking spectacle. A fan captured the performance on video, which you can watch below.