Buddy Guy Saturday, Aug. 12, Masonic Temple
Buddy Guy promised to do a “triple-good” show Saturday at the Masonic Temple.
Maybe he tried too hard.
Guy plays guitar about as well as anyone who ever strapped one on, but Saturday night he pulled every hot lick out of his bag of tricks and still came up short.
Not that anyone went away mad. A below-par Buddy Guy show is still heads and shoulders above most of the rest. But this one left you with that less-than-filling feeling that the musician was more interested in playing to the crowd than playing music.
It’s a fine line for blues musicians; their music is marginally popular and monumentally influential.
It must be frustrating beyond belief for players like Guy to watch young white bands become millionaires copping sharecroppers’ riffs.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, who never failed to acknowledge his debt to Guy, could make more money off a single record-and-tour package than Guy will likely make in his lifetime.
“You have to keep up with what the younger generation wants,” Guy said in an interview the week before the show. “That’s one thing I always tell my band: You have to give people what they want to hear.”
Saturday night, he did lots of that: Floods of molten riffs poured from his guitar, steaming single-line runs piled up against walls of chords thick with distortion. His voice cut through the din like the lonely sound of the blues incarnate.
All that was missing was the counterpoint, the silence that makes the sound more profound, the note not played that carries the emotional weight of 30 perfect licks.
Of course, maybe Guy has a good memory. The last time he was here, the crowd talked over every one of the quiet passages, prompting him to lecture them. “I wanna go way back, but you gotta shut up and listen. Now, shut up and listen!”
So, now, maybe in towns like this he’d rather go to the front of the stage, flash his billion-watt smile at the fans down front (Man, what cheekbones!) and run off a blazing riff.
Or take his guitar off the stage and into the auditorium, where he’s sure to attract a crowd.
It’s good theater, but it’s not great music - or at least it’s not the music of which he is capable.
Buddy Guy is too good a musician to pander to the crowd. It would be nice if he and the crowd could figure that out.