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With a heartfelt “aloha,” the four-time GRAMMY Award-winning, blues artist Keb’ Mo’ tipped his hat to a sold-out venue for the first of a three-night run at the prestigious Blue Note Hawaii in the Outrigger Hotel in Waikiki.

Keb’ Mo’ (born Kevin Moore), the charismatic songwriter with a signature eclectic take on Delta blues, had the audience hanging onto his every note, bending their emotions just as skillfully as he bended the strings on his steel guitar.

He opened with “Rita,” off his seminal album Suitcase. Hard to believe that this toe-tappingly cheerful melody is, at its base, a story of regret and missed opportunity. But such is the beauty of Mo’s music and the power of the blues; his powerful lyrics and talent were able to draw out the emotions lying just under the skin and bring them to the surface.

Similarly, during Keb’ Mo’s feel-good fan favorite, “Old Me Better,” the musician is thankful for his old lady making him a better man--but he still reminisces about the days before she put that sweater on him, when he was a lot more fun. “I’m always a little hesitant to play this one ... espe-cially when she’s in the audience,” he said, smirking. With the crowd still reeling with laughter, a group of woman stood up in unison and screamed, “Shave Yo’ Legs!” With a laugh, Mo’ took their request and broke into a love song about accepting your significant other just the way they are, hairy legs and all.

During short breaks between songs, Mo’ proudly took drinks from an aluminum water bottle sitting on a table at his side during the set. He began to preach the benefits of reusable bottles and began his next song, “Don’t Throw It Away,” a catchy sing-a-long against single-use plastics, seemingly written for us specifically out in the Pacific Ocean.

Towards the apex of the show, woman were standing on edge eagerly awaiting their anthem. He delivered with “Put a Women in Charge,” a song off his latest album, performed alongside Rosanne Cash, which unabashedly provides us with a simple solution for the problems facing our world.

If Robert Johnson was alive today, I would imagine he’d be smiling from behind his six-string, knowing that there’s a champion carving a new path for the blues: Keb’ Mo’. One channeling the genre to speak to today’s times and serve as a positive vehicle of compassion for a whole new generation of songwriters unafraid to dip their feet in the pool of their forefathers.

Before last week, I never knew the name Keb’ Mo.’ Today, I’m proud to say I’ve listened to his latest album, Oklahoma, for the tenth time since his show, and have gone through his entire discography many times over, discovering new favorites with every listen. He’s currently touring through the US--don’t miss your chance to bask in the glory of this amazing blues phenomenon.

Raul Soria Jr.

Photojournalist - Portland

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