After a brief intermission, the charming, six-time Grammy-winning blues man appeared on the stage brandishing a white Stratocaster. He announced, "Whenever I come to a town, I like to play something so funky you can smell it and it goes like this." He and his band (Tim Austin on drums, Marty Sammon on keyboards, Orlando Wright on bass and Ric Hall on guitar) dove headfirst into "Damn Right I've Got the Blues" and then "Five Long Years." He stood at the microphone singing while his fingers effortlessly danced across the strings delivering soaring and awe-inspiring leads. Buddy's playing showcased that sometimes less is more. His hands and fingers flew across the freeboard in a subtle way that proved once-and-for-all that fantastic guitar playing is not defined by how well the guitarist can shred.
As the evening unfolded, Guy told a number of stories, bantering with audience members who requested songs, asked him to play Stevie Ray Vaughan and constantly yelled "We love you!" at the 77-year-old icon. One of the many highlights of the evening came when Guy asked the audience what they thought about Sullivan. He said, "How about this young man just before me? And, how about his drummer? You know he produced my last three albums. This song is from one of those albums." He then sang "74 Years Young," (a song written three years prior and on this night updated to 77). The lyrics say it all:
"I'm 74 years young, there ain't nothing I haven't done
I've been a dog and I've been a tomcat
I chased some tails and I left some tracks
I still know how to have my fun 'cause I'm 74 years young"
When audience members continued to request Stevie Ray Vaughan songs, Guy responded, "What if I just play some Buddy Guy." The audience almost lost its collective mind when Guy broke out some of Vaughan's most famous guitar licks, quickly followed by a touch of Jimi Hendrix and then John Lee Hooker's "Boom, Boom."
"Messing With The Kid" was greeted with wild applause and then as he weaved in some Albert King
, Guy stunned the audience by leaving the stage. He ventured into the audience, walked and played his way through the crowd. As he navigated his way through the rows and into the aisles, he briefly stopped and regaled fans with personal one-on-one performances. He then stood in the aisle and continued playing. Eventually, the grinning bluesman took a seat about fifteen rows back and played the rest of the song leaning back in the seat while amazed audience members took out their smartphones and snapped away.
When he returned to the stage he called his producer and collaborator Tom Hambridge (a Grammy, ASCAP and BMI award winner) out on stage for "Meet Me in Chicago" and an amazingly soulful rendition of "Skin Deep" (from 2008's Zomba/Jive album of the same name). It was at this point that the roadies brought out a stool and an acoustic guitar. he plugged in the guitar and led the band through short snippets of Ray Charles
' "What'd I Say" and Marvin Gaye's "Ain't It Peculiar."
As the set wound down, Guy invited Quinn Sullivan back to the stage to further showcase his talents. Guy and Sullivan riffed on Cream
's "Strange Brew," traded Hendrix riffs and jammed together as the Chicago blues legend ushered in the next generation of blues guitar gods. Guy, who is old enough to be Sullivan's grandfather, has been mentoring the young guitar slinger for half of Sullivan's young life. He has clearly been preparing Sullivan for bigger things and, in essence, preparing to pass the baton.
When the lights came up, the audience members ran to the merchandise table to indulge in some retail therapy and to meet Quinn Sullivan who had promised that he'd make another appearance after the show and to buy memorabilia from both artists. The table was surrounded as fans purchased Sullivan's CDs and shirts as well as signed copies of Guy's Rhythm And Blues
LP (RCA, 2013), various t-shirts and hoodies, CDs, signed guitar straps and other collectibles. In the parking lot, as the fans made way to their cars, many were heard to utter "I can't believe that he's just 14." Those same people were also heard saying, "Buddy Guy sure doesn't play like a 77-year-old" while they retreated to their cars with the look of abject amazement and sublimely satisfied smiles on their faces.
[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon