Buddy Guy wasn”t shy about letting Ann Arbor know just how he was feelin” “I feel real good right now!”
So good, in fact, that playing his trusty polka-dotted guitar became a mere distraction in the sideshow that occurred at the Michigan Theater last week. Buddy Guy”s set was a mixture of self-indulgence, unbridled enthusiasm, bizarre interludes and (thank goodness) some funky blues. In his standard ensemble of denim overalls, Guy and his band began the evening with a wicked bass and sax-heavy rendition of “I Just Wanna Make Love to You.” Demonstrating the full potential of Guy as a performer, the song was the pinnacle of the show and unfortunately rendered the rest anti-climactic.
Not that Guy had a problem with that. For example, Guy and his band often never properly ended a song he would cut them off halfway through, citing reasons such as, “I don”t want to play that song anymore.” “Cheaper to Keep Her” was a crowd-pleasing number with a mischievious groove, saucy lyrics (about how it”s better to keep your current spouse rather than pay the pricey child support once you divorce) and Buddy”s smooth, low voice.
By the fourth song, Guy was feeling so good that he escaped from the stage and headed up the aisles, with guitar techs chasing him with a wireless monitor and a microphone so he could still play. After making the rounds on the floor (charming women by taking them by the hand and letting them strum his guitar, etc.) he somehow appeared in the balcony after a short disappearance, where he announced, “I”m not going home tonight!” While the gag was funny enough, it lost its humor when, 20 minutes later, Guy was still wandering around the balcony warbling away on his guitar.
Nevertheless, Guy radiated pure energy. Between songs, he explained that Ann Arbor played an integral part in his decision to become a musician. After playing at Ann Arbor”s Canterbury House in 1967, he decided not to go back to his truck-driving job. Instead, Guy headed to Chicago to become a session guitarist at Chess Records by day and learn how to play music by watching the greats Junior Wells, Muddy Waters in blues clubs by night. “[Ann Arbor] is the town I fell out on the stage,” Guy said.
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the young lady brought up on stage to jam on her harmonica with Guy himself. She”s sassy, she”s talented, she stands up to Buddy”s endless stage banter and she”s only nine years old, folks. Her name is Sunny Girl, a Michigander who fronts her own band called “the UV Rays.” This local talent traded frenzied licks on the blues harp with Guy like a seasoned professional, bringing the audience to its feet.
Despite the performance”s flaws, Guy is a legendary Chicago blues musician who has a star-studded history that cannot be ignored. He is often referred to as electric blues” greatest living guitarist. He heavily influenced Clapton, Hendrix, Santana and Vaughn (they”ve said so themselves). Surely, his career as a performer has seen better days.
However, you”ve got to hand it to him Guy was certainly “feelin” it” (his term), and made it clear that if the audience wasn”t in on the joke, then screw “em. Maybe it was a giant wink or just a bad night either way, Guy didn”t seem to care.