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Live Review
Buddy Guy
@ Legend's, Chicago, January 29, 1999
By Ann Wickstrom
Buddy Guy
Jan. 29, 1999
Photo © 1999 Ann Wickstrom
All rights reserved
This was my very first visit to Legend's and I was expecting a fairly classy club, with Buddy in his corny old overalls and his black and white polka dot Strat. What I GOT was a very average, even somewhat drab club, but Buddy was dressed to kill and he was playing a sunburst Strat. Backing up a bit, the evening started with an early evening acoustic set from a great little duo called "Devil in a Woodpile". Rick "Cookin'" Sherry and Paul K. played traditional blues on everything from harp and a National Steel Guitar to a jug and a washboard with a little cymbal on it. After their set I took a stroll around the club to check out the memorabilia on the walls. Cool records, cool autographed guitars, a dress worn by Koko Taylor, Muddy's early 80's credit cards, old recording contracts, etc. Very cool if you're into that sort of stuff! The Joe Moss Band was next. WOW. Brothers and sisters, I am here to tell you this is one fine blues band. Joe is an excellent guitar player and a very good singer, and the drummer was quite possibly the most smackin' drummer I've ever heard.

By the time Buddy took the stage the club was packed and the energy level was extremely high. I was sitting near Buddy's brothers Phil and Sam, his 92-year-old friend Babe, and other friends and relatives. What a party we had in our corner!

Buddy was decked out in a tan shirt and dress slacks, brown suede jacket, tie, a brown fedora complete with band and feather, and brown shiny boots. And that enormous smile - it's really larger than life. Before the second song ("Five Long Years") was over, he broke a string and right as it snapped he said "Oh s - - t!" He gave the string to a very appreciative young woman up front as the crowd cracked up. When the song was over he said, "Sorry about breakin' that git-tar string, but if you ain't breakin' 'em, you ain't playin' 'em."

Buddy played both covers and his own songs, and almost all were very familiar. They included "Look On Yonder Wall", "Watch Yourself", "My Time After Awhile" (on which he traded licks with keyboard master Tony Z), "Teenie Weenie Bit", "Love Her With a Feeling", and "Damn Right I Got the Blues".

A touching moment presented itself when Buddy reminisced about his dear departed friend and partner Jr. Wells, who died just a year and two weeks before this show. Buddy said he promised Jr. he'd play one of his songs at every gig for as long as he continued to perform, and then rolled out a nice medley.

Buddy has a young hotshot guitar player with him, Scott Holt. Scott's playing is completely over the top and might be too much for the pure of blues or weak of heart, but since I am neither, I loved it! Scott and the band kept a great groove going when Buddy and his guitar did the walkabout through the crowd, out the door and down Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago. He was gone for a long time and we were starting to worry about him but eventually he found his way back to the stage. Another walk through the crowd, this time with just his mic, gave several fans a chance to give it their best shot on the chorus of "Looks Like Rain". Even 92-year-old Babe got a turn!

Perhaps the biggest revelation for me this night was realizing what a great singer Buddy is. This was especially demonstrated on a medley of songs such as "Ain't No Sunshine", "Strange Brew", and "Voodoo Chile". He often brings his voice AND his guitar down to a level that is barely audible and then makes it swell to full force. And I don't think I've heard another man hit the high notes quite like Mr. Guy.

If there is one thing I would like to have changed about this show, it would be the fact that very few songs were played in their entirety. There were bits and pieces and medleys and lots of gear shifting and some songs that were stopped dead in their tracks in favor of idle chit-chat. I found all of this to be a bit disconnecting and frustrating. When all is said and done, though, seeing this legend AT Legend's in America's most legendary blues city was a special treat and is a night to cherish. Long live Buddy Guy!

This review is copyright © 1999 by Ann Wickstrom and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.

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