April 23, 2005
"I'm havin' fun!"
Buddy Guy was happy to be back in Louisiana. The Lettsworth native transmitted light and love for life through his boisterous and rambunctious blues at Jazzfest Saturday afternoon. Guy had nothing but good things to say from the stage. At one point, he said he wasn't gonna leave. He said he was home, so he should be able to do whatever he wants. Guy later left the stage graciously and on time. Not before he left skid marks with his wailin' voice, raw guitar playing, and exceptional showmanship, though.
It was the most fun I've ever had at a blues show. Why? It was a blues party--a constant rush of blood to the head. Guy only played a few of his own songs, but it didn't matter because Guy was so good at interpreting other people's music. Some might have been frustrated Guy was set on imitation, but just to hear Guy tackle Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" was a treat.
The 68 year-old has been performing for 48 years, and Hendrix, Clapton, and Vaughn made and in one case make no bones about their love for Guy's music. He has sold over two million albums, he earned four Grammy Awards, and he won nineteen W.C. Handy Blues Awards--more than any other artist.
I can see why he was popular on the Chicago blues scene. He was charismatic onstage. He chatted up the crowd, threw guitar picks, and at one point he played guitar while he ran through the audience.
After the concert, a man sitting nearby said Guy hadn't taken any chances during the gig. On the other hand, he said, "Clapton doesn't care" and will risk things. He said it was a standard show. Maybe so. I hadn't seen Guy before, but if that was a standard show, then I want more standard shows.
I had the pleasure of seeing Clapton last year, and Guy's playing was crazier than Clapton's. It wasn't as astute and polished, but it was dirtier and just as heartfelt. Guy played a slew of hard hitting notes before he went for the sustain. My heart knew it was put together right, but with what I've heard, those notes shouldn't have fit together. Somehow they did. He was playin' so fast at points that I couldn't have deciphered it, but it sure did feel right. Like rebellion. Like a liberation.
After Guy acknowledged the set's lack of original songs, he played his most famous song, "Damn Right I've Got The Blues." The indigant tone of the lyrics fit the sauntering swagger of the song's rhythm wonderfully. He mixed the distortion of Hendrix and the tone of Vaughn.
This is when he went into the audience. Dressed in overalls and a white fisherman's cap, he stopped at points to play. He was easy to spot. Wherever the circle of people was.