Last night, I watched Buddy Guy perform live at his club Legends, in Chicago. Hard to believe that club is now twenty years old. Pulling into the snow covered parking lot, I glanced over the backside of a building that could best described as both beloved and dinghy, or more to the point, authentic. (www.buddyguys.com) If you want glitz and neon and “shows,” go to Vegas. If you want to experience authentic Chicago Blues, come to Chicago. That’s my feeling.
Entering the dark club about 5 PM for a 9 PM show, I took note of something a friend of mine in Second Life had said, regarding a resemblance of a blues club in SL, Toby’s and the RL, Legends. (but no booths or poseballs..lol) Walking through, we somehow managed to miss the last two chairs. That is significant, (because at $40 a ticket, a bargain, in my opinion,) I begrudgingly resigned myself to standing the entire night leaning against a ledge. Besides, how hard could it be to eat the Chicken Andouille Jambalaya standing in heels for hours?
A couple beers, some nice conversation, and people had started wandering in over the next couple of hours. Ordering some of that soul food, and a little Jose Cuervo to go with it, I was in heaven. The food? Fantastic! Jambalaya so authentic, I got a spice induced hot flash, and in Chicago in the Winter, that’s not all that bad a thing. The night sped by, thanks to the help of a great waitress. Whatever she makes, it’s not enough. Fast, efficient, helpful, and she even, was kind enough to ask people if chairs were taken for us. The guitars behind the bar, told their own story, as my eyes alighted upon a certain polka dot one. The mural near the restrooms also caught my eye. Ten years ago, it would have been filled with smoke, fortunately that was not the case.
The crowd thickened, and there was little room for plates of food, or drinks. Most ate standing up, holding their plates precariously. (You eat gumbo standing and you will feel accomplished too! )
Why is it in crowded places, people who feel the need to move about in a hurry, think its perfectly acceptable to put their hands on your shoulders, give you a little massage as they move you over, or, the most startling, put their hands on your hips and move you! My personal space was invaded by total strangers more times than I could count, and Jose was not helping. One man started to reach under the ledge for the coat hook, and brushed my skirt, to hang his jacket beneath where I was leaning! I know, the look I gave him, must have surely sent a clear message, because he backed off and went to the other side of the room. Now don’t get me wrong, I am moderately friendly and social, but my purse was on that hook! And, I don’t need a lot of personal space, but my posterior is off limits, unless I know you!
Both preceding acts were fantastic. An old school acoustical duo (Eddie Taylor, Jr.?) played from 430 to 6. The pair set the perfect mood for a night of Blues. I felt like I could be sitting on a porch, listening to some of the keepers of the genre, relaxing. (By that time, sitting was a reoccurring thought.)
The opening act, Big James and the Chicago Playboys (www.bigjames.com) is a band to pay attention to. They recently toured with Buddy, signed with Blind Pig Records, have a new CD coming out this spring and a bit of trivia, won an award at the Jazz Festival in Vienne, France. Pretty good for a bunch of Southsiders! When they took the stage, it became apparent; we were in for a treat. They had the ability to connect with an audience, make Blues entertaining, incorporated humor, delivered on the music quality, and put a little funk into the Blues! My Second Life DJ friends and Blues Club owners should definitely take note of them, because their vibrant energy would translate into Virtual Reality well! You can be sure, I will actually join their fan club, and look for them again. I believe they are scheduled locally for Valentine’s Weekend, The Chicago Blues Fest weekend and The Blues on the Fox in June. Go see them. You won’t be disappointed. And listen for the “Leave Your Coat On” song! James and band, proved the Blues, could indeed, bring a smile to your face with some dam good keyboard, sax and trombone playing as well.
As the anticipation grew, waiting for Buddy to take the stage, the crowd settled into a position in which everyone in our general area could see. And, then it happened. Our little group of newly intimate strangers, attracted friends, and a jockeying of position started to occur. Suddenly the pair of late arriving young twenty something’s, both exceptionally tall, (6’6” and 6’2”) were standing in front of the 5’4” thirty something’s who shared a ledge with us. The couple who were well into their 50’s, on our other side, had no chance at all of seeing. Even asking politely for people to move back or over a few inches, as they were now blocking the vision that most of us had stood there for 3 hours to see, was met with indifferent shrugs or apologetic grimaces.
If you have never experienced BG live, you simply must. But go early and get a good table. Seriously. Every show is different, and the man is a true performer and artist. A living legend. Buddy’s comments are priceless, ranging from funny, pointed, sincere, to admonishing. He was fantastic, everything you thought him to be, and more. When he sings, he looks straight at you that glimmer in his eye. Even for the 5, what I assumed to be cognac’s he knocked back, the man went around the club several times, and he did a thigh shake that would make Tina Turner envious. I want his work out routine! He did some old favorites, he did several off of Skin Deep, and I have to say, when he said he felt good tonight, and was going to keep playing, no one thought of work the following day, or plane flights, or anything else. You know, when you are in the presence of greatness, time stops. Two things particularly struck me. The first was Buddy brought a young man, well really a boy, up on stage to play guitar with him. The boy had to be somewhere between 10 and 13. He was adorable with a tie around his hat for a brim, but when he started playing Buddy’s guitar, I think many jaws dropped in the house. Buddy asked the Father more than once, “Why in the F didn’t you bring him around sooner?,” and he was dead serious. The boy, was good. Better than good. It was innate talent. And I saw the future of the Blues, in that moment.
The next surprise was, Buddy left the stage at the end, and called up Ronnie Baker Brooks, once voted Best New Blues Artist, Best New Chicago Blues Artist, and Best Chicago Debut Blues CD with “Golddigger” (ten years ago) and not to mention the son of the great Lonnie Baker Brooks, to come finish the set, as singer and guitar player, so he could do autographs. Now, one might think that it would be a let down, but it was far from it. Ronnie played well with Buddy’s band. “Born in Chicago” never fails to light the blues flame in fans. It’s not his Daddy’s blues, but his own. Looking at his schedule, it makes me want to spend Valentine’s Day with him!
So, as the night came to an end, and I watched Ronnie and Buddy’s keyboard player communicate non-verbally, I had to smile. You have to admire a man, who so obviously shares his stage, and encourages younger talents. It is not the mark of a great musician; it is the mark of a superb human being.
BG got it right, on his new CD, Skin Deep. Which of course, I got autographed. It was all I could do, standing inches from him, to keep from making a blathering idiot of myself, but I managed a sincere, “Thank you,” which was for much more than the autograph. It was for what he has done for Chicago Blues, education about the Blues, encouraging the next generation of Blues artists, and, the simple fact, his music speaks to my heart. As the lyrics go, “He can make an old woman, young, And he is the one and only, the one man I won’t forget,” at least when it comes to the Blues!