Buddy Guy with Jonny Lang
The Cotillion Ballroom
February 22, 2014
By Jeb Wright
Wichita, Kansas loves Buddy Guy.
Whenever the blues icon makes his way through the center of USA the result is a packed house and tonight, at the legendary Cotillion Ballroom, was no exception.
Opening for Buddy was Jonny Lang, who, on this crisp Kansas evening lost his voice prior to the show. Unless you were ‘In the Know,” however, you would have never suspected a thing, as Lang took the stage gave it his all, often times hitting high register falsetto notes that left the audience in awe of his talents. Throat coat and ibuprofen work wonders when mixed with sheer determination and raw talent!
Lang’s vocals simply are amazing. On this night, he needed a bit more rest than usual, however, which ended up meaning more jamming. His band, bassist Sonny Thompson, drummer Barry Alexander, keyboardist Charles Jones and guitarist Akil Thompson were happy to lend a helping hand backing up Lang as he tore up solo after solo in between verses.
“Angel of Mercy,” “Blue Up the House,” “A Quitter Never Wins” and “Red Light” were the big hits of the evening, which culminated in a “Sanding O” for that skinny ol’ white boy who can sing the blues.
The crowd became anxious during the break and when Buddy Guy took the stage and opened with “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues” the crowd went wild cheering on the 77 year old icon. Buddy may play guitar leads a little sloppy, but he still holds his own. And he plays the guitar with his polka-dotted shirt sleeve, a drum stick and whatever else he may be near by. Despite his advancing years the ladies still react to his pelvic thrusts on his guitar.
Buddy has a great sense of humor and he uses it to his advantage on stage. He’s seen it all twice and done it three times, so when he wants to walk off stage with his guitar and make a round through the crowd, he’s going to do it. Some nights his jaunt includes a stop in the ladies restroom, but tonight he must night have not been able to find it, as he simply walked through the crowd hammering out guitar licks the entire journey.
Buddy gave a history lesson to the crowd, telling tales and performing songs by luminaries such as Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters and other blues greats. Of course, every blues crowd has a few drunks in attendance and tonight was no exception. Someone thought Buddy was talking directly to him when talking about influential guitarist he has worked with until Buddy scolded him, telling the annoying person to “shut the fuck up” which brought the crowd to life with laughter.
Buddy introduced songs off his latest album, which no one in the audience could tell him the name of (2013’s Rhythm and Blues). In between blues standards and storytelling Buddy grabbed an acoustic guitar and performed an emotional version of the poignant song “Skin Deep,” which in hindsight was the most enduring moment of the evening.
The bottom line is the Buddy Guy has still got the blues and he is not only happy to have them, he’s proud of it. His is a true walking history book of the genre that saved his life and gave him a future. As he told the crowd on this blustery evening, he may have gone to Chicago just to find a job, but what he found, instead, was a lifetime of the blues.