Buddy Guy is a legend, plain and simple. Having played on many of the greatest blues songs ever written, he finally moved on to become a very successful solo artist, and the rest is history. His style is his own. Whether it be his “Chicago” style blues or his polka dot guitar strap, Buddy Guy is Buddy Guy and there will never be another like him.
After being introduced as the six-time Grammy winner that he is, Buddy came out on the stage looking as sprite and cheerful as ever. Wearing a black and red track suit (presumably for the hometown Louisville Cardinals) accompanied by a tan hat, and armed with his Fender Strat held on of course by his black and white polka dot strap, Buddy bounced from one side of the stage to the other. Playing every step of the way, taking in all the cheers the crowd had to offer. He then stopped at his mic to belt out, “You’re Damn Right I Got the Blues!” The party had officially started.
Buddy led into the next song by saying, “I want to play you something so funky, you can smell it!” Then he kicked into a rendition of the classic Willie Dixon penned “Hoochie Coochie Man“, which was made famous by the late great Muddy Waters on the famed Chess Records label. Buddy was playful with the crowd, stopping mid-song to tell us all that we “fucked up the words.” He said, “I played that song three weeks ago in India, nobody fucked up the words. What the hell is wrong with you people?” Buddy was having a blast messing around with the crowd and believe me, the crowd was loving every minute of it.
Next up was the classic “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In“. The song featured a lengthy jam with Buddy really showcasing his playing ability, but of course, it was in Buddy’s own way. Reaching from underneath the guitar, he played a solo. Propping his right elbow on the amp, he played a solo one handed. He flipped the guitar over and scratched the guitar strings over the zipper on his track suit for effects. It was a perfect example of Buddy just being Buddy, and it was great.
His stories of how rap and hip-hop opened the doors for the language barrier, allowing musicians to say what they feel without repercussions was not only funny, but also enlightening. As he told of how labels would censor projects and how, what he called party records, were fun records that were lyrically close to cursing and that those would scare the labels to death. He sang a few verses of a party song where the chorus ended in, “That’s a Milking Mother for Ya.” He told how the labels would say, you can’t say that! It’s too close! It’s a subtle reminder of our not so far gone past of censorship and a testament of just how far we’ve come as well.During “74 Years Young“, Buddy left the stage, but never stopped playing. Where did he go? He came into the audience and stopped about five feet in front of me. Was this really happening? Was Buddy Guy standing right in front of me? As I snapped back to reality, I quickly realized I had better cherish this moment, because there is no way it will ever happen again. As he finished playing his solo, the band continued as Buddy was handed a mic and as usual, he had something funny to say. This time commenting on his age. Someone yelled out, “You’re 78 years old, not 74!” To which Buddy replied, “I’m not that damn old. I’m 76, quit trying to push me out the damn door!” As if the crowd wasn’t already captivated, Buddy put the crowd in a frenzy by “Coming out to be a part of a great audience.” He certainly had everyone’s full attention for the rest of the night.
For me though, the last two songs of the night were the most memorable. Buddy took to his barstool and sat down with his acoustic to tell the tale of his arrival in Chicago. He told of being hungry and trying to get a dime from a man to call his Mom. Fully intending to call collect and keep the dime, just to eat. The man wouldn’t give him the dime, but dropped a quarter in the jukebox and asked if he could play all these different songs, which of course Buddy was playing on his acoustic and singing in the respective voices of the original artists. Mimicking their styles and sounds. This is where Buddy showed you his vocal range. Playing a wide range of songs and artists, including Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles and the Eric Clapton led Cream. His voice was so clear, so natural, so effortless. It was great to hear that Buddy truly still has “it”.
Ending the night was a beautiful rendition of “Skin Deep“. The song is another reminder of the age that Buddy came from. It’s a song about equality and it could not have been more beautiful. With the diversity in the crowd, whether it be race, age, gender, or whatever, all were seemingly captivated. Those things should never matter to any civilized human being and Buddy ended his set with a reminder to everyone there to simply love one another.
I wrote in my Jonny Lang review how emotional his show was. Buddy Guy’s show was as much fun as Jonny’s was emotional. Buddy is one of, if not the absolute most charismatic entertainer I have ever watched live. His personality onstage is exactly what I’d imagine he is like off the stage; Telling stories, pulling pranks and just being the life of the party. Had you told me beforehand that a 76 year old man could do the things he did, I would’ve definitely had my doubts, but Buddy is all show up there and he was tremendous on this night.