Atlanta Symphony Hall • September 11, 2019
by Roi Tamkin
The Blues is alive and well said the T-shirt on the guy in front of me. Rock&Roll Hall of Famer Buddy Guy came to Atlanta to confirm and re-affirm that message. The Chicago bluesman has been performing for 62 years, and at 83 years old he is proving to be a masterful showman with no sign of slowing down. His opener was two-time Grammy award winner Tom Hambridge. The producer/songwriter was promoting his new cd The Nola Sessions that he recorded in New Orleans with a bevy of local celebrity musicians. Standing on the Atlanta Symphony stage with a snare and a cymbal, Tom went through a quick 40-minute set accompanied by Marty Sammon on keyboards. Tom sang his songs of heavy drinking, lost love and one happy blues song about the joys of singledom. Since it was Sept. 11, he played his patriotic, flag waving song, “Number 19” which he dedicated to the Vets in the audience. A standing ovation followed. He dedicated “Blues Crazy” to the late Dr. John. Between songs he entertained the crowd with comical anecdotes about the songs he wrote for famous singers and his life as a performer. For the next 90 minutes, Buddy Guy played through a set of his originals, some classics, and a portion of some covers. Add to the mix a lifetime of stories about his life, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and a few comments about the “hip-hoppers” of today.
Buddy opened with a screamer: “Damn Right I Got the Blues” lighting up the stage and tearing through his stratocaster playing extended solos as he prowled the front of the stage. His backing band included his opener Tom Hambridge on a full drum kit this time and Marty Sammon back on piano and Hammond organ. At one point in his opener, he settled back letting Marty impress the crowd with bluesy keyboard stylings. He followed with “Hoochie Coochie Man” that then bled into “I Just Want to Make Love to You” with the audience doing their best to sing out that famous chorus line.
For “Fever”, he traded leads with the rhythm guitarist who sauntered from the back of the stage to stand in the center spotlight. He wailed away on his guitar and even gave it a spin a la ZZ Top which put the audience in stitches. When Buddy talked about the great blues guitarists, the crowd starting shouting out names. “B.B.!” “Stevie!” “Buddy!” After a few moments of standing there looking peeved, he asked “Are you finished?” Then he broke into John Lee Hooker to set the record straight. Which oddly merged into Rev. Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.’
He had the audience sing along with “Feels Like Rain” and “Slippin’ In.” He closed with “Skin Deep” ending a raucous concert full of profanity and amazing guitar. All in all, he played about nine songs, but in between he bantered or toyed with the audience. At one point, he removed his guitar and laid it across a speaker. He threw a towel over the neck to mute the feedback, then pounded his strat with a drumstick. He also played guitar behind his back and even did the riff from Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” with his backside. Yes, he did that. Well, after 62 years of live concerts, you are allowed to play with your butt. Buddy’s energy was riding high as he gave his all for 90 minutes. He even left the stage and walked around the Symphony Hall orchestra seating playing guitar as people crowded around him for photos. Yes, Buddy, the Blues are alive and well. For now.