Last night, Buddy Guy played a benefit concert at the Pointe Coupee Civic Center to a hometown crowd of a few hundred people. We were able to score some VIP tickets from a friend connected to the show, and I watched the 90 minute performance from the center of the second row. I still have a big smile stuck to my face, despite exceeding the maximum recommended number of beers for a Sunday night.
Those of you who have seen Buddy Guy live are already jealous. I cannot remember ever seeing a better show. And if you haven't been paying attention, I've seen a lot of concerts.
If you don't know his work, don't feel left out. He has never really been a household name. But Buddy Guy is a man who inspired a generation of electric guitar gods, and changed modern music forever. Jimi Hendrix would sometimes cancel his own shows to go see Buddy Guy play. Eric Clapton called him, "by far and without a doubt the best guitar player alive." Stevie Ray Vaughan used to say that without Buddy Guy, there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughan. He simply does things with an electric guitar that you wouldn't think are possible. He played a medley at the end of the show that included selections from Clapton, Hendrix, and others, and he mimicked each of their styles effortlessly. And he can sing!
I didn't really expect that much when I committed to go. After all, the man is 73 years old, and I've seen the Cream reunion videos. It was also held in a place that is basically a gymnasium with a stage at the end, similar to hotel ballrooms where one often eats rubber chicken in uncomfortable chairs and listens to boring motivational speeches. Or wedding toasts. I assumed it would be somewhat nostalgic, and a moderate amount of fun, and he would probably sit for a good part of the show. I thought he might even play by himself.
OH MY EFFING GEE*, was I wrong! He ripped through an hour and a half of blues, rock, soul, and genre-defying pieces with so much energy, and showmanship, and jaw-dropping skill that it was over before we could even really catch our collective breath. Not only did he not sit, we didn't spend much time in our seats, either.
He played the guitar behind his back.
He played the guitar with a drumstick.
He played the guitar with a towel.
He played the guitar lying on a speaker, fingering with the towel.
He played the guitar with his FRACKING TEETH!
Which is all fun and fine and we've all seen it, except for the fact that you couldn't tell by listening that he was playing behind his back, or with a drumstick, or with a towel, or with his fracking teeth. It sounded like someone really talented playing the guitar. Seriously. For reals. We kept looking at the band guitarist to make sure he wasn't picking up the slack. He wasn't.
The band was outstanding. I would probably pay to see them, even without Buddy Guy. Not as much, but still.
At one point, he strolled around on the floor, singing, and playing, and letting us know what his Momma told him. He passed close enough for me to push him over, but I didn't, partially because the big guy following him would probably have smacked me across the head with the big police flashlight he was carrying.
And oh, what he does to the women, no matter what age or ethnicity. I was keeping a close eye on the wife at the reception after the show, where he signed autographs and took pictures with people for well over an hour. Buddy seemed to enjoy the attention from the girls, despite being visibly drained from the show. Also, it was probably past his bedtime.
One side note of the "let this be a lesson to you" variety. Buddy Guy was born in Pointe Coupee Parish and left home when he was 19. He said that in the intervening half century, no one had ever asked him to come back home to play. All it took to make it happen was one spunky little lady without the sense to know that someone like that would never come to a place like this. She called, he said yes, and then she had to figure out how to pull it all together.
Oh, one more lesson. This opportunity did not come through any of my old show business friends. With one exception, none of them have done anything music-related for me since I left the business. This particular opportunity came from a friend I met in graduate school, who owns a business in the area. So stay in school kids, and maybe take some science. Someday you might get to meet Ludacris. Or Fifty Cent. Or whatever random crap-of-the-month you damned kids listen to these days.
Buddy's skills are apparent on his records and DVD's, but it compares to his live shows about like a picture of a baguette compares to the smell of baking bread. If you've ever liked blues, or soul, or electric guitars, you need to see Buddy Guy, before this unique American treasure disappears forever. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
* Sorry to have to pull out the interweb abbreviation curses, but sometimes nothing else will do.