Live Review: Buddy Guy @ the Birchmere, March 27

The good news is that Buddy Guy, one of the true geniuses of the blues game, still puts on a blistering show. The bad news is it’s almost identical to the same show he’s been putting on for years now. I used to work at Buddy Guy’s Legends (his club) in Chicago many moons ago, so I’ve seen the guy literally dozens of times. Hell, I buy tickets to see him these days just because I figure I still owe him for all the booze and food I consumed for free more than a decade ago. Even on an off night, the man is going to blow your socks off, playing smoking guitar solos, quiet interludes and yakking it up with the audience like the best performers out there.

This time around, Buddy displayed more energy than I’d seen him have in a while. Decked in a blue track suit and white kangol hat, even the outfit was a departure from every time I’ve seen him over the years, foregoing his trademark overalls or polka dots. Now, the problem with the Buddy of late is he arguably takes his job as Ambassador of the Blues a bit too seriously. By this I mean the man literally did not finish one song during his entire hour and one half set. Instead, he played snippets of dozens of songs, most in the style of the original performers. Adding to my personal disappointment, he only played one track of his own, “Damn Right, I Got the Blues.” He did run through some covers he’s done on albums (“Fever”), but most everything else was by somebody else. He did one-time partner Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man,” John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” and Cream’s “Strange Brew,” amongst others. With each song, he commented on how radio doesn’t play the blues anymore, so it was his mission to give a taste of all of it to the crowd. Of course, he did run through his repertoire of guitar tricks, playing behind his back, one-handed and going through the entire crowd with his wireless amp playing to damn near every individual in the room.

While Buddy’s only 71, if you’ve never seen this master of the electric blues guitar, I can’t stress enough that you should while you’re still able. Too many of the greats have passed on already and there simply aren’t too many legends left.

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