When Love Comes to Town: B.B. King’s 1990 “Standing Room Only” concert in Atlantic City, NJ

By on April 2, 2018

In 1990, 65-year old B.B. King, the reigning “King of the Blues,” was filmed live in concert at the Trump Marina Hotel, on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for Standing Room Only: B.B. King in Concert, which was released on DVD in 2007.

With his trusty fabled axe “Lucille,” King performed eleven of his best-loved blues standards during the hour-long concert, including one of his newest numbers, “When Love Comes To Town,” which he’d previously recorded just a few years earlier with the Irish rock band U2.

Watch Standing Room Only: B.B. King in Concert now on Night Flight Plus.

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B.B. King’s longtime band — led by his Music Director and nephew Walter King, who plays saxophone — featured Michael Doster (bass), Leon Warren (guitar), Caleb Emphrey (drums), James Toney (keyboards), and Melvin Jackson (saxophone).

At this time in his career, King was still quite the jokester onstage, and he can be seen joking with the audience.

He also has his band add sparkling accents to the performances on their individual instruments by pointing at them with various body parts, including shaking his ample ass in their direction, which the audience seems to love.

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At the end of the show, King stays onstage and hands out personalized guitar picks to the audience members who are gathered at the edge of the stage.

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Read more about Standing Room Only: B.B. King in Concert below.

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If you were wondering whether B.B. King in 1990 was still capable of surprising his audiences after so many years of being the “King of the Blues,” we can only tell you about some of the things that were going on in his life at the time.

Three years before this Atlantic City concert, in 1987, King had been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Then, in 1988, King reached an entirely new and different generation of fans with the single “When Love Comes to Town,” a collaborative effort between King and the Irish band U2 on their Rattle and Hum album.

The track had been recorded by U2 and B.B. King at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

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“When Love Comes to Town” was released as a single in April 1989, and a video — from the 1989 concert film Rattle and Hum — went into heavy rotation on MTV and ultimately won a Video Music Award for Best Video from a film. The single became King’s biggest hit in the U.K.

King had asked Bono to write a song for him after meeting him backstage at King’s Dublin concert in 1987. “The lyrics were very heavy,” King said about the song.

When the Edge, U2’s guitarist, tried to show him the song’s changes, King reportedly said, “Gentlemen, I don’t do chords.”

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King later joined U2 again in 1989, as the band’s opening act, touring with the band for three months, coming out to perform the song as an encore at nearly ever show on the tour.

When the Lovetown tour pulled into its last stop in the Netherlands city Rotterdam, on January 10, 1990, Bono reportedly gave his famous “hero” speech in which he called B.B. King “the heavyweight champion of the blues.”

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Just a few months later, in April of 1990, King collapsed while on tour. He was hospitalized, diagnosed with having Type II diabetes.

King resumed touring in a matter of days, resuming his exhausting tour schedule, playing more than two hundred shows a year, this Atlantic City concert being just one of those.

It was during this time that he began to play part of those concerts while seated in a chair, placed at center stage by his nephew Walter King as it it were a throne for a king, which, in a way, it was.

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With the mood now a bit more relaxed, King would then perform songs, seated in his throne, with a small combo (after the horns leave the stage). He regales the audience with off-the-cuff conversational patter that was never scripted, King talking about whatever came to mind.

At the end of this more reflective part of the show, King stands, and the chair is removed. The horn players return, and King finishes the show standing, bringing everything to a rousing conclusion.

That same year, in the fall of 1990, King toured internationally with a 17-piece big band assembled and sponsored by the tobacco company Philip Morris (they were billed as the “Philip Morris Super Band”).

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B.B. King at the 1990 Grammy Awards show (photo by Alan Light)

In September of 1990, King was immortalized with his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, timed to coincide with the release of his latest live album, Live at San Quentin, which won a Grammy that year for Best Traditional Blues Recording.

This Grammy was awarded just a few years after he’d been honored by the Grammys with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

King would end up being awarded fifteen Grammys during his long career (he was nominated thirty times). He performed five times on the Grammys telecast.

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Lee Tofanelli & Associates produced the “Standing Room Only” concert series, filming thirteen total episodes in Philadelphia, PA, and Atlantic City, NJ.

In addition to B.B. King, the series featured Smokey Robinson, Mel Torme, Shirley Bassey, Grover Washington Jr., and a special pop concert performance by Laura Branigan, the Hooters and other artists.

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B.B. King died on May 14, 2015, at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Watch Standing Room Only: B.B. King in Concert, live from Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1990 — and other live concert films — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.