Home

Friday, 07 July 2017 18:13

Buddy Guy is Real

Buddy Guy is real. In a music business where people often portray an image onstage - a persona - Buddy Guy is real. When you go see him play, that’s what you get and nobody walks away not knowing a little something about the man.

Before Guy’s set at Ravinia Festival, we were treated to the music of Booker T. Jones. Some of you might say, “who’s he?” Booker T. and The MG’s were the house band at Stax Records. They were on many songs that you remember, but they were not the faces on the record. Most people do recognize their hit “Green Onions”, but if you asked who it was…

His was a nice short, but effective, set. I had hopes of Buddy coming out and playing a song with Jones but that might have actually taken the focus away from Booker’s music in a way. It was really nice to hear the Hammond Organ being played by the actual person you heard play those melodies. Booker even played guitar and sang…but…that organ, that sound… It’s almost become a lost instrument today. I say almost because you do still see them but we could be witnessing the tail end of the instrument’s impact. I’d love to see bands today bring back the organ.

On the other hand, Buddy Guy was born to play the guitar - to quote his own song. I think that is true. However, he does not play the way your guitar teacher will tell you to play. What does that mean? It means he just plays the guitar. He doesn’t study it. He doesn’t analyze it. He plays the guitar. Guy’s playing has been a huge influence on Rock’s elite but many just don’t get it unless they see the man play live. You cannot capture Buddy Guy on a recording. It’s just not the same. His performances should not be repeated. They should not be recorded. They should be experienced. You need to be there when he walks out into the crowd, and this could not have been truer than at Ravinia the other night.

I don’t want to go off on a tangent here, but go see more live music. Before music turns into a complete corporate clown show, go see more live music. Live music has so many benefits. Musicians pay their bills nowadays largely in part by playing live. Free downloads killed CD sales. We need to support these artists. Maybe the decay of integrity can be slowed down or even repaired if we did this. Go see more live music.

Artists too are to blame. They need to be real. That’s why the music of some people lasts forever. Formulas are for scientists, not musicians. Just be yourself and make some music. Be like Buddy Guy. I do not mean imitation. Just be real.

Guy’s set was amazing. You will never see the same show twice. He starts one song and may finish it or he may jump to anther song. The band needs to be on their toes. I am sure they rehearse most of that but I am sure a huge part of rehearsal is learning how to follow Buddy’s lead. The Blues as a musical form has always involved a lot of improvisation. You actually get to hear music at its point of creation. You can’t rehearse that part of the process, the creation. To witness this is a gift to you from the artist. This leads me back to the reasons to go see live music. It’s like gift exchange. They give you the music. You go see them so they can pay their bills. It’s good for the economy. Go see more live music.

Published in In Concert
Saturday, 10 June 2017 21:14

Robben Ford at SPACE

“If you would shut off your phones, you might enjoy it more……”

This is the day of the cell phone, and in being so, there really needs to be some type of etiquette applied from time to time. I have also been guilty of this myself. When you are watching someone perform ANYTHING, turn off your phone. And the guy on stage shouldn’t have to tell you that either. That happened. I messaged my friend mid set, too.

Okay, but what about Ford's recent show at SPACE in Evanston? Robben Ford is one monster guitar player and hasn’t lost a step. He has played with people ranging from Miles Davis to Kiss. His solo work is very Blues based. Before you even hear a solo, you’ll notice that Ford is also a solid rhythm player. His singing falls right in there, too. Robben is a very precise musician in terms of rhythm. It’s easy to see how he got a lot of the work he has through the years.

Guitar players tend to get judged on their soloing abilities. No problem there. Ford was stepping out on an early 50’s Gibson Les Paul Gold Top. He had his classic Dumble amplifier and tone for days. I know, it’s not the guitar. I know, it’s not the amp. It’s that solid phrasing and the respect for what he is playing. The effects he used were completely unnecessary. He could have easily plugged straight in.

Bassist Brian Allen did his fair share of soloing throughout the set. I would also say he didn’t overplay. Bass players who overplay lose their role from time to time. I didn’t hear that.

Wes Little finished off the trio on drums. Little is a powerhouse type of drummer. A heavy hitter, he also gets a great jazz vibe when needed. He stepped forward for a couple solos, one longer than the others that really showed his chops. I think it takes some seasoning to play like that, to be able to hit hard and yet just right. Even the loudest crashes were musical. Ford even sat behind his amp while Wes took his solo. He may have been in a safe place there.

With an amazing song repertoire that includes “Worried Life Blues”, “High Heels and Throwing Things”, “Can’t Let Her Go”, “When I Leave Here” and so many more, it was surreal at times watching this legend play in such an intimate setting. Ford included a songs from his latest release Into the Sun, which I recommend picking up.

Other than Robben Ford having to tell the people watching to shut off their phones, it was a great show. His calling out cell phone abusers was actually kind of funny, anyway. On second thought, using your phone during a performance might be more sad than anything. When you are watching a musician playing at the top of their game…right in front of you - Pay Attention!

 

Published in In Concert

Expectations for what you might see in a concert are not always what turn out to be the reality of the situation. On my way to Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, I knew I was going to see two legendary guitar players in their respective fields. Let’s just say any preconceived notions I may have had regarding a strong showing by Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck were dismissed several times throughout this fine Sunday evening.

 

First, I assumed Buddy Guy would be opening for Jeff Beck. However, Beck took the stage first, opening with a track from his latest release Loud Hail. The song starts, vocals are heard, but no one on stage is singing. Then a woman dressed in what could be described as some kind of military uniform singing through a megaphone appears as she strolls down the aisle. She eventually gets on stage and joins the band. Now, this really wasn’t that strange for a Jeff Beck show. He has been dabbling in different genres most of his career.

 

Beck alternated between new album cuts and some of his classics like Freeway Jam. Somewhere around the fifth or sixth song a different vocalist appears and to the crowd’s approval, it was veteran Jimmy Hall who has worked with Jeff many times. Their performance of “Morning Dew” was highly inspiring and raised some goose bumps on Beck’s avid fans in attendance. “Morning Dew” was written during the turbulent 1960’s with a post apocalyptic theme. There seemed to be a bit of a theme during the show. I have always considered Jeff Beck to be a man of peace, and he conveyed this subtle message in his selections.

 

As for Beck’s guitar playing? Well, a musician in his league never disappoints in that department. Some people have claimed JB to be the best guitar player out there. Even though that I find that an impossible title to hold, he is certainly high on the list. Now here is a guy known for flashy guitar playing yet he doesn’t waste a note. We have had so many technically gifted guitar players come and go through the years, so what makes a guy like him so appealing? One word, melody. If someone claimed Jeff was the most melodic guitar player, I just might have to agree. Some say brilliant instrumentalists are often frustrated singers and when Beck plays, it is akin to a human voice. He doesn’t even use a pick anymore. This man’s music is what happens when you give someone an amazing ear uniquely interpreting each melody on a Stratocaster. Beck’s encore was his take on The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” to which he played the vocal lines on the guitar just like a singer. His voice is the guitar.

 

After Beck’s stirring set, I was sitting there thinking, “How is Buddy Guy gonna top that?” Buddy is Buddy, that’s what he is. He has been quoted as saying that’s all he can do is be himself. That’s just fine in my book. A true artist’s personality comes out in their art, no matter what the area. Guy is often manic but just so down to earth that you end up falling in love with the man before the show is over. He celebrated his 80th birthday just the day before. That’s correct, 80 years old! But Guy didn’t show his age and displayed the energy of a much younger man.

 

Guy’s attitude on stage is incredible. I have never met Buddy myself but have heard that off the stage he is a pretty shy guy. He’s just one of those artists whose true self only comes out when performing. Look out and be prepared as Guy’s shows are basically unscripted for the most part. He admitted he had no set list though his band was obviously prepared for what he was doing. His performance is almost like Buddy thinking out loud. He jumps from one thing to another.   

   

I consider Buddy to be one of the last real showmen of the Blues. His roots go back to Muddy Waters. Those old Blues cats always know how to entertain. Buddy used to do a trick back in the old club days where he would use a super long guitar cord and go out into the audience while playing. Now a wireless system makes things so much easier. Guy walked off the stage and kept going though a good portion of the pavilion at Ravinia, twice passing my way.

 

Guy was joined by Beck on one song and another featured two of his kids, one on vocals the other on guitar. The last portion of his show was Buddy teasing the audience playing just bits of a bunch of old Blues songs that weighed heavily as his musical influences. A true entertainer leaves the audience satisfied but wanting more. This was definitely the case.

 

Did Buddy Guy top Jeff Beck? Well, maybe not by his guitar playing alone. The performance actually made you forget the opening act while he was on stage. Like the title of his opening number, Buddy was “Born to Play the Guitar”. Jeff Beck was too, but Buddy was also born to entertain. At 80-years-old, won’t be performing forever, my advice being to see him while you still can. He is really one of the only living links to the old Blues cats left. After him, it’s mostly the English Blues players like Clapton. And who is Eric Clapton’s favorite guitar player? Buddy Guy. On July 31, 2016, Buddy Guy was mine was too.

Published in In Concert

Court Theatre's "Five Guys Named Moe" is non-stop fun

19 September 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

The live sounds of 30’s and 40’s jazz transform Court Theatre into a music venue in this production of Five…

Review: Goodman's "A View from the Bridge"

19 September 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

The Goodman Theatre almost never includes a show in their subscriber season that they haven’t developed themselves. Dutch director Ivo…

TATC's "Big River" Brings Twain Characters Back to Life

18 September 2017 in Theatre in Review

There has never been a better Broadway marriage of story and storyteller – until Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, three decades…

Black Ensemble to produce the world premiere of Living the Black Renaissance

13 September 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

Black Ensemble Theater continues the 2017 Season (The Dance Theater Season) with the World Premiere of Living The Black Renaissance…

"Spamilton" Chicago Announces October 8 Closing After Seven-Month Run

13 September 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

Today, the producers of “Spamilton,” the critically acclaimed parody of “Hamilton,” announced an October 8 closing date for the Chicago…

After Many Tribulations, Muthaland Finds Its Home

12 September 2017 in Theatre in Review

Minita Gandhi’s autobiographical one-woman show is making its official world premiere as the final production of the 16th Street Theater’s…

Interrobang Theatre's FOXFINDER - Monday, October 2 at 7:30 pm at The Athenaeum Theatre - Midwest Premiere!

11 September 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

Interrobang Theatre Project launches its 2017-18 Season, exploring the urgent question “What is Truth?,” with the Midwest premiere of Dawn…

First Floor Theater Presents TWO MILE HOLLOW - October 8 - November 4, 2017 at The Den Theatre - World Premiere!

11 September 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

First Floor Theater open its sixth season with the world premiere of Leah Nanako Winkler’s explosive satire of the classic…

Casting Announced for 14th Annual "New Stages" Festival at Goodman Theatre

11 September 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

Casting is complete for the three “developmental productions” featured in Goodman Theatre’s 14thannual New Stages festival—a free celebration of new…

Drury Lane's "Rock of Ages" "Ain't nothin" but a good time"

10 September 2017 in Theatre in Review

For Chicagoans that grew up in the 1980’s music scene, we remember favorite rock clubs such as The Thirsty Whale,…

(re)discover's "FOR ONE" is an unusual theatre amusement park

08 September 2017 in Theatre in Review

The historic Gunder Mansion in Edgewater opens its doors for a unique theatre experience: a fifty-minute event consisting of five…

First Folio Theatre Presents Spooky World Premiere of The Man-Beast in October

07 September 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the World Premiere of Joseph…

 

 

10 Years! Fave Issue Covers

Register

Latest Articles

Guests Online

We have 101 guests and no members online

Buzz Chicago on Facebook Buzz Chicago on Twitter