Buddy Guy is the last living blues legend from the classic ‘50s era, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by his live show.
The 83-year-old looks – and performs – like he’s in his 40s or 50s. His visceral guitar playing, strong voice (even falsetto), and edgy stage presence haven’t diminished since he played Chicago clubs in the ‘50s.
Most impressive about Buddy Guy, of course, is his music.
Guy played on some of the most important blues recordings of the ‘50s and ‘60s. His work with the most important names in blues history – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson (II, to be clear) and many more – solidified his reputation as one of the genres best guitarists.
He paid tribute to Waters early on with a long, glorious medley of seminal “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “19 Years Old,” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” Unfortunately, you could tell by how off they were singing along that most of the crowd only knew the Foghat version of the last one.
Due to Chess Records trying to subdue his naturally wild sound, Guy didn’t release much solo material until the 70s and 80s. Some of his best work was done in the 90s and 2000s, right up to today. The extended take of the title track from 1993’s Feels Like Rain showed the power of that material.
The set also included powerful interpretations of other blues and rock classics, including Little Milton’s “Grits Ain’t Groceries,” Albert King’s “Drowning on Dry Land,” B.B. King’s “Sweet Sixteen,” Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return),” and Cream’s “Strange Brew.”
The music, of course, was the focal point. But Guy’s stage presence is as close as you’ll get to a classic Chicago blues show.
His dialogue was downright raunchy, filled with cursing and sexual innuendo. He didn’t have to run around the stage and demand audience participation to command the crowd; all he had to do was stand and glare.
Other Guy power moves included thrusting into his guitar and playing it with his guitar strap, playing Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” with a drumstick, and walking through the crowd. He even played licks for the Fillmore security and bartenders.
If you’re just getting into the blues, Buddy Guy – and the recordings he played on – are the perfect place to start.
His performance at the Fillmore was a wild ride that channeled the classic 50s era of blues, the raunchy Chicago style, and heavy blues rock. Guy is the only man alive who could pull it off.