PHILADELPHIA, PA—“Gypsy woman told my mama, before I was born,” softly whispers Buddy Guy in front of a dead silent capacity crowd at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. “Gonna’ make pretty woman scream and shout” he continues, as isolated vocal bursts of frenzied response ring off the acoustically impeccable concert hall directed at an entertainer who stands as a living legend, most notably credited as influencing the tone of English blues.
Guy’s face shoots back from the microphone and as his back arches, the shadow which was cast over his face from the brim of his derby hat recedes. His eyes are closed and the audible bombardment becomes overwhelming as 70-year-old licks fly into the air. With his cream colored Stratocaster glistening, Buddy lets out a moan through his shimmering lips which shatters the formal intimacy of the performance and opens the floodgates to a full- blown American blues revival.
Philadelphia has fallen under Buddy’s spell, with magic in the air, as he asks us, “Do you want me to play something funky?” Applause follows as his backing band loads. “It is so funky in here I can smell it!” The crowd is now teetering on pure hysteria. Buddy works them further, “You know there have been a lot of great musicians who are now gone, and when I stand on this stage I can feel them.”
With an indescribable amount of pent up excitement and tension lingering in the chest, Guy released the frustration by descending off the stage and venturing into the audience while manhandling the instrument. The once awkwardly tamed crowd explodes. As the house lights rise, Buddy walks down the aisle firing solos. Everyone is on their feet in pure amazement. The band onstage is swaying in rhythm. Meanwhile, Guy is in the middle of the audience testifying and like a religious experience, a hot flash rushes down the spine. The grooves vividly bring back memories of poppy vinyl and silver spoons as a personal relationship with the American blues flashes back past the eyes of this beholder.
He then shifts gears as he makes his way up to the first balcony and launches into a rendition of “Rock Me Plimsoul.” With microphone in hand, Buddy leans over to an unsuspecting woman still seated and shouts, “Rock me baby! Rock me all night long!”
By the time he returned back to the stage, the power of blues was so pungent that it moistened the soul.
“I’ve Got Dreams To Remember,” from the 2005 release of Bring ’Em In followed as held seventh scales dance off the rafters.
In homage to the people that Buddy Guy influenced and were in turn influential to him, he took the next 15 minutes of the set to imitate a few selected peers. Guy performed “Boom, Boom, Boom,” by John Lee Hooker, mimicked Eric Clapton with a rendition of “Strange Brew,” and caressed a wah pedal to transcend Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.”
With ringing feedback emanating off the neck, Guy slowly brings the guitar to his mouth and begins to pick with his teeth.
The response was not just overwhelming but sincere.
Capping the set with “Damn Right I Got The Blues,” the performance concluded just before 11 p.m. to no encore and no disappointment.
Photo Credit: Rod Snyder