The Blues Revisited
“Even the ‘living legends’ of the genre, like Buddy Guy and B.B. King, are best enjoyed in limited doses, like ice cream or recreational drugs. Too much and you go into a coma.”
I was wrong about that.
What I should have written was “Even the recordings of the ‘living legends’ of the genre…” (A mild sense of ethics restrains me from going back into the archives and making this small edit, which most people wouldn’t notice anyway. I figure if I’m going to mouth off about something, I should be willing to stand by my ideas — or admit when they’re mistaken.)
Experiencing Buddy Guy live in concert last week changed my mind. He was at the Hollywood Bowl with Etta James, and they both made thrilling music of the most compelling kind. She did one straight Blues and a whole bunch of other “bluesy” numbers. (And was fabulous). Buddy played the Blues straight through and was utterly mesmerizing. (So much for limited doses.) I had never heard Mr. Guy live before. Now that I’ve had the pleasure I’m more convinced than ever that most practitioners of this art form are mediocre at best. Buddy Guy is great. What impressed me most was his command of dynamics, the electrifying contrast between pianissimo hush and forte howl. He was deep inside the music, in the gutbucket. Plus, he can play the guitar a little.
Buddy and Etta experienced live prove that the very best are exempt from the usual strictures that less accomplished performers must face. They could have played the Blues all night and I wouldn’t have minded at all.