At the early age of seven, Louisiana native Buddy Guy created a two-string instrument with a piece of wood and a few hairpins that he called a guitar and taught himself to play. This makeshift instrument was a far cry from his guitar that would eventually make its way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. Growing up listening to the great artists of his time like John Lee Hooker and Lightning Slim, he would later be discovered in Chicago by “the father of modern Chicago Blues,” Muddy Waters, who became a dear friend. Now celebrating an amazing career in Blues Rock, which has spanned over six decades, Guy has a slew of accolades that includes six Grammy Awards, thirty-four Blues Music Awards, and the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime contribution to American Culture. Considered a living legend, Guy along with his Damn Right Blues Band ensnares the devoted fans in what is nothing short of an amazing, mind blowing show at The Space in Westbury on Tuesday November 18th.
Opening up for Buddy Guy was Canadian solo-artist Matt Andersen, outstanding in his own right, with talent that mirrors the passion he puts into his performance. Winner of three 2012 Maple Blues Awards and a receiver of a British Blues Award nomination, among many others, Andersen, like Guy also has a sense of humor and says on this evening of only 32 degrees- “I’m from Nova Scotia, so thank you for the warm weather.” His introduction with “Make you Stay,” off his album Coal Mining Blues (2011), thrilled the crowd and pulled them into this upbeat heartfelt narrative of a man’s love of his woman with a voice that made everyone want to stop and take notice. “I Lost My Way” was the next treat for The Space, which is off of his newest album Weightless. Deserving to be on the same stage as Guy, Anderson closed his set with “The Devil’s Bride” off the 2009 album Piggy Back, leaving the crowd primed for the legend himself. After Anderson’s set, he was at the back of the venue meeting fans. When asked how long he has been performing, Andersen smiled and replied, “Oh about fourteen years” as he feathers his name on the cover of Weightless, showing a man loving every minute of crafting music and bringing it to the people.
After a terrific table-setting act, it was time for Guy to take the set. Opening up the set with “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues” he captivated the audience from the start and never let go. Complemented by his band of Ric Hall on guitar, Tim Austin on drums, Orlando Wright on Bass, and Marty Sammon tickling the ivories, the foursome played with heart and soul and a confident, natural stage presence which went hand in hand playing alongside Guy. Guy’s humor and antics were engaging and lured the fans into an outrageous night of live raw talent. In the midst of the song he abruptly stops the music and the sharp-dressed Guy says “thank you for inviting me tonight and just cause I’m from Chicago, I didn’t bring this weather!” Creating the atmosphere of amusement, matched with his God given talent to make a guitar do things one did not know a guitar can do, Guy went on to say “I promise to play something tonight so funky- you can taste it.” Then in an amazingly high pitch, “Have You Ever Been Mistreated” came out of him as he continued to pull the audience in. Screams and applause came from an engaged room and continued throughout the evening. Guy continued to engage the fans saying, “I’m gonna give you everything I got tonight” as he continued to sing “I Just Wanna Make Love To You.” Amidst the crowd were even some younger generation spectators including a twelve year boy saying he had been a fan of Guy since he was little, giving a whole new meaning to reaching audiences of all ages.
Meanwhile, back on stage, Guy began to recall the day his father brought home a record player and put on John Lee Hooker before he broke into “Boom Boom” having The Space loving every minute of it. Going into “The Things That I Used to Do” by Guitar Slim, Guy reflected on his first glimpse of a Fender Strat guitar. Playfully conversing with the room, Guy asked, “Do you have a curfew?” Provoking an ominous roar from the crowd, Guy smiled and said “I can play all night.” Proclaiming “I’ll die before I sell my guitar,” Guy segued into a story about a time when he did not have a dime to phone his mom. When hearing him speak about a memory of how his mother never got to see him play, gave fans the feel that he does not take anything for granted in this life, so much so, that he even has the date of September 25, 1957 engraved on his guitars; a date that changed his life forever. At the age of nineteen, Guy had begun working at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge as a custodian. By this time, he had managed to get his first real guitar and begun playing in clubs around Baton Rouge. Though he continued to hone his musical skills, it was not until the summer of 1957 that Guy decided to pursue a career in music. During the hot Louisiana summer, a friend of Guy’s suggested that he try his luck as a musician in the Windy City. Shortly after arriving in Chicago, Guy met Otis Rush, who introduced the young musician to a location that he would grow to become very familiar with, the 708 Club.
Continuing Blues-ing through the years, Guy gave the audience such tracks as “A Man and the Blues,” “Hoodoo Man” and “Messin’ With the Kid” to name a few. Thrilling every soul with eyes and ears in The Space, a young fan of eight years old was invited to come onto the stage to perform with the band. The boy played guitar and keyboards well, making for a moment he will carry with him for the rest of his life and perhaps inspire him to pursue a career in music as well. Some other highlights in the set included a slower version of “Strange Brew,” where Hall stepped up with Guy for a duo, Otis Rush’s ” I Can’t Quit You Baby,” and Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” Even mixing in some Jimi Hendrix along with Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar”, Guy brought out the best of many great artists that he obviously respects and wanted to pay tribute to.
Exiting stage left to walk among the many in attendance, Guy showed what he is all about, tearing it up slow and sweet with “I’m Losing You” by his late friend Junior Wells along with some more of his humor that never tired. Taking pictures, autographing a CD here and there, made this larger than life icon seem so respectfully “ordinary” in a crowd of his devotees. Once again taking the stage to bid farewell with another “thank you,” Guy treated the fans by tossing some of his picks out into the dark crowd. This farm boy was a long way from Louisiana, but has never lost sight of where he came from. He kept it real and sincere in his conversation with the audience, just like sitting with a friend. Having certainly earned his place in the world of Blues, Guy is worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer name and every other award he has received. Any fan of music in general must see him live at least once in their life.Photo credit: Joe Parisi