Durham Performing Arts Center—For all of the questions about DPAC's cost, cutbacks and community associations, there's little doubt—given Durham's blues past and tumultuous story—that inveterate bluesman and American icon B.B. King is the perfect choice for the 2,800-seat theater's first night. King, who turned 83 last month, was born in the tiny Mississippi town of Itta Benna in 1925 (which claimed 2,208 residents as of the 2000 census) to a sharecropper. He came up through hard-clawing persistence, forming a gospel-singing group in the Delta at the height of World War II. When the war ended, he made his break north to Memphis, returning South once again out of frustration. On his second attempt in Memphis, though, his popularity bloomed because he took chances in front of audiences and work when he could get it (an advertising jingle helped him find a crowd, for instance).
Now, he's a longtime riser currently sitting on top of a fairly peerless legacy. These days, rock 'n' roll history listmakers don't debate whether or not to include Blues Boy King in their annals of the best; they debate his influence on everyone below him. He's won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a National Medal of the Arts, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Rolling Stone's laud as the third greatest guitarist of all time. And having sold an average of 2,400 tickets per performance over the last three years, he's just the right size for DPAC. We only fear that his reputation and repertoire create big shoes early. Others coming to the new wide stage will have trouble filling them. Smartly presented with Durham's blues curators, the St. Joseph's Historic Foundation. Locals Mel Melton & the Wicked Mojos open. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show cost $38-$68; visit www.dpacnc.com. —Grayson Currin