Buddy Guy is a shredder of the highest order. Despite having cut his teeth in blues clubs on Chicago's south-side in the '60's and backing up Muddy Waters as well as a number of other Chess Records luminaries, his guitar playing actually resembled the likes of Hendrix and even Eddie Van Halen at times. At least during the solos. His virtuoso playing was painful to watch-in a good way. It was clean but overdriven, intense, excessively loud and astonishing. It contained all of the blues hallmarks, but none of it's limitations. He never settled for "the big note" bends, but contorted his guitar in ways that the two aforementioned "gods" probably picked up on when they first heard Mr. Guy.
The set last night contained plenty of Buddy's own songs and more than a couple of covers. He opened with the monster title track from his Grammy-winning album "Damn Right I've Got the Blues" and followed up with tunes he did while in Muddy's band. His band was tight and they were able to follow Buddy wherever he chose to take the show without missing a beat. The only time the set dragged was when he would play only sections of covers, a verse and a chorus, but not the entire song. Not that it sounded bad, but I would have preferred hearing the songs in their entirety as they were well done.
I did not get to hear any of his Junior Kimbrough covers from his "Sweet Tea" album, but I left right at the very end and did not stick around to see if there was an encore. Buddy was amazing and would gladly go to see him again.
Unfortunately, the show opened with Jonny Lang. It was awful beyond all reckoning.
Could he sing? Yes, he sings very well.
Can he play? He plays well-meaning, he has ability.
But, the problem is that Jonny Lang is one of those gutless "blues" musicians (along with Kenny Wayne Shepherd) that play with as much emotional depth as dry mud. His playing was utterly devoid of feeling-a total wank fest right down to the ridiculous facial expressions he makes during his solos. And he played for an eternity.
To make matters worse his band could not seem to get it together until the last two songs. They seemed to get it together during a gospel influenced tune that I felt was the strongest of the set. However, the squandered any good will they earned during their self-indulgent solos. Every band member had their time in the spotlight, including the bass player who seemed to fancy himself some sort of "slap" bass genius. He was more Flea than Willie Dixon. It was miserable.
Seeing Jonny Lang is like watching "Guitar Center Presents: The Blues".