REVIEW WRITTEN BY CHRIS CAMERON
At 80 years old, blues legend Buddy Guy seems to have more stamina that some people have who are half his age. Guy reminded everyone at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on a recent Friday night why he is a celebrated guitarist and a blues historian.
“I’m here to teach y’all something tonight about the blues,” he said in his Louisianan drawl. “You ain’t teachin’ me. I’m teachin’ you.”
He doesn’t just play the guitar, he interacts with the guitar. Watching him glow onstage makes one realize that playing is a physical workout for the man and he loves every minute of it.
Guy has been playing the guitar professionally for over six decades and shows no signs of slowing down. He picks it. He plucks it. He strums it. He makes it hum when he hits it with a drumstick. He makes it squeal when he swats at it with a towel.
He plays it between his legs, behind his back, and even with his teeth, and reminded us that he was the guy who inspired Hendrix back when he was playing in juke joints in the Deep South before relocating to Chicago.
He kicked off the night with his signature song, “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues” with his four-piece Damn Right Blues Band holding down a steady rhythm throughout the 90-minute set. He played the title track off his 2015 Grammy-winning album, “Born to Play Guitar” and told the audience that he doesn’t bother keeping a set list because he’ll just end up changing it anyway.
He wasn’t being braggadocios dropping a few guitarists’ names whom he inspired, he was just reminding everyone how the music has evolved from its roots and how he’s learned from them, too.
“Eric Clapton told me to keep a small band and I’d never have to worry about rehearsing,” he said. “I followed his advice,” he said motioning to his band.
“You remember this guy?” he asked before launching into BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone” riff. “I miss my good friend BB King every day. Before he died he told me ‘don’t you let the blues die with me.’”
Since the passing of King last year at the age of 89, Guy has assumed the role of the elder statesman of the blues. He really is the last of a line of musicians who were playing the music before it became mainstream.
Before there was the Rolling Stones, or The Who, or Led Zeppelin, there was Buddy Guy working early on as a session guitarist for Chess Records recoding songs with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and others.
At the Keswick he stuck to the hits and had the audience singing along with the refrain to “Sneakin In” and wandered out into the crowd taking his time to make his way around the entire theater interacting with fans during Muddy Waters’ “I Just Wanna Make Love to You.”
He ended the evening with a medley of blues and R&B describing the evolution of the music that he loves. The evening reminded everyone in the audience that the music isn’t about the age of the songs, but the passion that you play it with, and he still brings plenty of passion to his songs.
As one concertgoer passed by he said, “That was amazing. I was just in awe of his playing.”
“You don’t hear this kind of music on the radio anymore,” Guy said. “But anytime you want to hear it, you just call me up and I’ll be happy to come and bring it to you.”
Hendrix and King and many others who have passed on were smiling down on him.