Why Buddy Guy still matters
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 23:02
His voice was powerful enough to turn blood into wine.
Last Tuesday, renowned guitarists Johnny Lang and Buddy Guy performed at the Center For the Arts. The two legendary musicians demonstrated in full force why their music has resonated and cemented itself in the history of blues and rock and roll.
“Sometimes I play something so funky you can smell it,” Guy said. “I’d be better if I rehearsed. ‘Scuse my language, but I’d f**k it up.”
Guy said he last played at UB in 1968 when gas was 32 cents a gallon.
He showcased all of his tricks Tuesday night, flipping the guitar over and scratching the strings with his shirt; flirting with girls maybe 50 years younger; playing with one hand, behind his head, behind his back; he played with drum sticks, towels and his teeth.
Guy’s presence seemed to take up the entire auditorium. At one point, he left the theater through the rear exit and re-emerged through the other side into a sea of adoring fans.
He harassed and bickered with the audience throughout the whole show, much to the complete adulation of the crowd.
“I played this same f***king song in India two weeks ago and they didn’t fuck it up,” Guy said as he played the blues standard, “Hoochie Coochie Man,” written by the late Willie Dixon.
Guy’s story reads like an American folk legend. His influence is tremendous and can be heard in the music of musicians and guitarists from Eric Clapton to The Black Keys and virtually anyone else who has picked up a guitar since his first recording was released in 1965.
He began in the Deep South as the child of a Louisiana sharecropper, and his first guitar was a block of wood with two strings secured by his mother’s hairpins.
“I don’t read one note of music,” Guy said in the midst of an outrageous torrent of galvanizing and visceral electric funk-blues soloing.
Guy’s creativity and use of dynamics in his set were most remarkable, as he was able to tear through a shredding, violently chaotic solo, and at the drop of a hat, progress into the softest and simplest of riffs, just to go back into the pandemonium that is his play style.
According to Eric Burlingame, community relation associate at the CFA, Guy’s professionalism exceeds past the stage.
“Buddy Guy and his crew are true road warriors,” Burlingame said. “They travel with a relatively small setup as far as equipment is concerned so that they are able to work different-sized rooms from clubs to larger theaters, such as ours, and shorten the load-in and load-out times. This was the fourth time Buddy has appeared at our venue, and we’ve always had a good experience with him and his crew.”
It would have been a miracle for his band to keep up if not for its outstanding talent and members showed themselves to be seasoned veterans of Guy’s chaotic and unpredictable style.
Jonny Lang, Grammy Award-winning guitarist and songwriter, didn’t fail to impress either, as he showcased his talent in the opening act.
A prolific and well-known guitarist himself, his play style falls somewhere between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eddie Van Halen with a demeanor like that of John Frusciante, in an ecstatic, cathartic stage presence.
Lang has developed quite a following in Buffalo over the last few years, as evident by members of the crowd shouting words of encouragement and cheers expressing a great appreciation of him and his music.
He played a tight set of freight train blues to soft rock, Eric Clapton style ballads with killer vocals and guitar solos on every track, one of which was a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City.”
Jonny Lang received a great reception from the crowd and Buddy Guy closed out his set with a thrash-blues version of “Crossroads” by Cream to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Out of everyone in the building Tuesday night, Guy seemed to be having the most fun, with the only exception being Hayden Fogle, 12, of Orchard Park, whom Guy pulled from the crowd to play on stage with him. Guy and Fogle played for a solid 15 minutes together, jamming a slow improvisation in the key of D that perhaps shocked even Guy himself.
Music has changed profoundly since Buddy’s first record way back in ’65. But one thing is certain: Buddy Guy is still the definition of ‘cool.’