Keb’ Mo’ did not disappoint. (Even if he didn’t sign my hat)

By J. DANIEL CLOUD,

I so wanted Keb’ Mo’ to sign my fedora. The grey one I’ve had since 1993, my junior year of college. For real, just over a quarter of a century has passed since I bought the thing. Anybody who knows anything knows Mr. Mo’ is a hat guy. I figured I had a chance.

I hung around long after everyone else except the man of the hour had gone home.

More on that later.

I’ve been waiting for years to see Keb’ Mo’.

It’s hard work, the waiting. I’ve lived and worked in four or five states since discovering his music.

I have to assume it’s also hard work performing, but you wouldn’t guess it if you heard the dude.

He puts on a show, and Hattiesburgers are fortunate to have such acts show up.

But that’s not really fair.

I don’t think he’s an act, and I don’t think he’s putting on a show.

Words mean things.

It’s been a little while since Mr. Mo’ put out his intro. (I mean, really. What do you call him? Given that I was standing on the street-side next to the Saenger Theater, I’d call him Mr. Mo’, as he sings in one of his songs. ‘Mister Mo’, we need a payment from you.’”)

So many apostrophes.

Or Kevin Roosevelt Moore, which is his given name, or simply “sir.” I’m inclined to believe I’d stick with “sir.”

Let me say this, before anybody gets grumpy.

Keb’ Mo’ is an artist you should hear, and see in person, if you have the opportunity.

We got lucky, here in Hattiesburg, and he came here.

Everybody say, “Thank you, Ardenland and Saenger Theater.”

I said, say “thank you.”

That’s how that whole call-and-response thing works.

Keb’ Mo’ is a master. I mean, the Saenger Theater was 90 percent full, or thereabouts.

I didn’t get official numbers, but if you’ve been there, you know what it’s like when the floor fills up and people have room to dance both up front and upstairs.

The man can sing a song. And he can read a crowd.

Hattiesburg loves to sing along. That much is clear. And we love our Americana. Big shout-out to WUSM, our excellent local radio station. Music! Music!

Sports happen, so we have to listen to sports stuff. But then, music!

Oh, Keb’ Mo’ can read a crowd.

“So I see Hattiesburg is gonna talk back to me,” he said after a song or two on Tuesday, when people started requesting songs, sometimes loudly, even obnoxiously.

Now, I don’t know if Mr. Mo’ has played Hattiesburg before.

I’ve only been here for eight years. But I’ve followed his career, and I don’t think there’s anything better, more cathartic, than people just singing their hearts out.

“Everybody knows Mississippi is where the blues came from, where it was curated, where it was perfected,” he said, in between songs. “You know, if there wasn’t a Mississippi, there’d be no Keb’ Mo’.”

That man doesn’t sing the blues. He sings a happy blues, generally, or an “I love you so much that it sucks to think about how happy I am, and, by the way, I love you” blues.

An “Eeyore found a thistle patch” blues.

He plays a mean, mean slide on a resonator steel guitar.

That’s my favorite.

When I tell people I don’t really play the bass, that I only “play at playing the bass,” I’m comparing myself to people who can actually play.

Same goes for harmonica.

But this cat can sing and play guitar and wail a harp. All at the same time.

So, so happy I got to go to this concert. I wore my suit. I wore one of my hats. The one I’ve had for a quarter of a century.

The first real hat I purchased, at Wormser Hats in Chattanooga.

And I carried a Sharpie.

And I cried. Oh, I cried.

There were moments of levity.

There was a song about “you asked me to change, so I did, but I liked the old me better.”

It’s always revelatory to see someone who is great at what they do, do what they do.

And he can play and sing.

He did sing that one song, about picking cotton, and slavery, and recovering from all that.

“Such a heavy price to pay, to learn the blues.”

It’s hard to hear a black man talk about what a heavy price people had to pay, to learn the blues. It is. Yeah, he’s from California, but I think he kinda understands Mississippi.

If he doesn’t get Mississippi, or isn’t from here, Mississippi understands him.

But I really think it’s reciprocal.

And then Henry played that steel guitar. You’re gonna need to Google that one, if you don’t know the song.

But what sold me entirely on Keb’ Mo’, this time around, was the song when he said “Get on your knees and pray.”

I’ve heard the song before. It’s on my routine playlist. Dammit, I hope I don’t accidentally violate any copyrights.

I’m not a Bible-thumper.

Used to be. Got over it.

But that song. He made me want to actually think about praying about things.

In the end, no, I didn’t get my hat signed.

I waited until everyone else was gone, and then the security people started looking strangely at me.

But that hat, the suit I was wearing, the music I heard: It will all always mean I got to see Keb’ Mo’.

And he spoke to me, even if I didn’t get to speak to him.

Hattiesburg’s J. Daniel Cloud is a talented writer and award-winning photographer. He’s also an avid reader, a music fan, a motorcyclist, a father, a husband, and an occasional columnist and contributor for The PineBelt NEWS.

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