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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Last Night in Cleveland: Buddy Guy at House of Blues

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 10:20 AM

“Hoochie Coochie Man” is a blues classic, written by Willie Dixon and first performed by Muddy Waters. We could spend all day talking about the number of different artists who’ve performed it. But none of that matters today, because last night, as Buddy Guy noted from House of Blues’ stage, Cleveland was “fucking it up.” ... Before launching into the song, Guy pondered aloud the idea of buying his own radio station so he could spin the blues. Judging from the audience’s reaction, he should buy one soon – just so he can educate local blues fans who aren’t familiar with essentials like “Hoochie Coochie Man.” “Ya’ll are fucking it up,” scolded Guy, bringing the track to a halt less than a minute after he started it. “Try it again,” shouted one audience member. “I’m gonna try it again,” said Guy with a smile on his face. “And if you fuck it up again, I’m gonna tell you again.” It was just one great moment in an evening that found the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in a great mood -- interrupting songs frequently to share facts about songs, running through impromptu versions of tunes made famous by other blues legends (like Albert King), and occasionally cracking jokes. It led one fan to comment that Guy was “too happy to play the blues.” But as another fan noted, Guy clearly gets his happiness from feeding off the audience and pushing his feelings out there via his music. In fact, Guy was not only excessively happy for his House of Blues appearance, he also was wearing a U.S. flag-styled shirt, giving the show the feel a Fourth of July block party. It was obvious early in the set that Guy wanted to deliver a memorable performance, peppering the show with a couple of Junior Wells numbers in honor of his late friend and former musical collaborator. Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues” set the stage early for a fiery concert that refused to give an inch. It included staples like “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” and the title track to 1991’s Damn Right I Got the Blues. Guy is a true showman and still has a knack for performing familiar songs, like “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” and convincing every lady in the house that she might have the chance to – whether she wants to or not – be in Guy’s arms at the end of the night. At 71, Guy remains an incredible guitar player, and even though he might coast a bit at times -- letting guitarist Ric Hall take the occasional generous solo -- he ripped plenty of solos of his own that lit fretboard fireworks. About halfway through, Guy’s trademark walk through the crowd with his wireless guitar led to a spontaneous rendition of “Champagne and Reefer.” Apparently, one particularly persistent fan followed Guy around for nearly 20 minutes, requesting the song as Guy played in the middle of the House of Blues crowd. Once Guy got back onstage, he was happy to oblige, but not before giving the fan some good-natured shit for his perseverance. The show wrapped with an acoustic set that included “Feels Like Rain.” After almost two hours, Guy abruptly left the stage, leaving the band to wrap things up. I’ve seen Guy in a number of different settings -- including a 1993 Blossom set at the inaugural Blues Festival, a performance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago last summer, and a concert at his Chicago club Legends earlier this year. Last night, Guy delivered a performance that was, without question, the finest that I’ve ever seen. And as my friend pointed out, it’s a gift to have the opportunity to still see blues legends like Guy. It’s one that all music fans should take advantage of. After all, there aren’t too many of these guys left. -- Matt Wardlaw
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