December 24, 2009
In 1987, B.B. King was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award – a signal that King, then 62, was winding things down. No one told King, who has since won 10 regular Grammys, including one for 2008’s “One Kind Favor,” a fresh reflection on the songs he first remembers hearing. The former Riley B. King – the “B.B.” is for “Blues Boy” – is now 84 years young and still performs his customary hundreds of shows a year, making his home in the most decked-out tour bus in the world. King makes some concessions to age, and to the diabetes he has had for two decades – he sits while he performs. But as he demonstrated at his last Aspen appearance, in 2005, he’s still got the licks and presence of the man who was named No. 3 on Rolling Stones’ list of the greatest guitarists ever (ahead of Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan). Is the end of the road ahead for King? Don’t take a chance: See the living legend on Monday, Dec. 28, at Belly Up Aspen.
Also 84, and at the top of his game, is Hal Holbrook. The actor has typically been cast as a buttoned-down, white-collar worker (“Wall Street,” “The Firm”), but in his latest career phase, he has taken off the buttons. Holbrook earned an Academy Award nomination for portraying the kindly free spirit Ron Franz in 2007’s “Into the Wild.” Now in “That Evening Sun,” Holbrook plays even further against type: His Abner Meecham is a feisty Tennessee farmer fighting for principles as he tries to reclaim his land. The performance is outstanding, and more physical than anything Holbrook has attempted. “That Evening Sun” shows Friday, Jan. 1 in Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings series. Other performances in the series to keep an eye on: Mo’Nique as a tyrannical inner-city mother in “Precious”; Colin Firth as a grieving gay man in 1962 Los Angeles in “A Single Man”; Tobey Maguire as an emotionally damaged returning soldier in “Brothers”; and Jeff Bridges as a hard-luck, hard-living country singer in “Crazy Heart.” The Academy Screenings has daily presentations through Saturday, Jan. 2, all at Harris Hall.
The Wheeler Opera House brings it all this week. The spotlight falls on local stage talent on Sunday, Dec. 27, as the Crystal Palace Revue, featuring former members of Aspen’s cast of the defunct Crystal Palace dinner theater, do their satiric song-and-dance. It’s cabaret night, Manhattan style, when Linda Eder returns on Monday, Dec. 28. On Tuesday, Dec. 29, the big screen comes down for the Colorado premiere of “North Face,” a pulse-raising German documentary about the climbing of the Swiss peak, the Eiger. The laughs flow on Wednesday, Dec. 30, with Best of the Fest, a round-up of the comedic talent from the Rooftop Comedy Festival. Irish tenor Ronan Tynan makes his Aspen debut on New Year’s Eve. A screening of the Rolling Stones concert documentary “Shine a Light” opens the new year, on Jan. 1. The run ends Saturday, Jan. 2 with Banjo Magic, a night of music and illusion to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.