Sunday, May 20, 2012

Buddy Guy / Quinn Sullivan - The Smith Center, Las Vegas, May 19, 2012

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is the newest cultural center in Las Vegas and will be home to many a varied shows, from concerts, such as this one, to musicals, plays, cabaret jazz and more. It is a beautifully built and designed building with superior sound and great sightlines throughout. Hopefully, there will be enough interest to support this endeavor in town.

Since I have been so immersed in blues music lately, my wonderful wife bought us tickets to see the legendary Buddy Guy for my birthday. While Buddy has never made the name for himself that many of the giants that he worked with did (Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, etc.) he is still well known as respected by rock icons and Grammy awards nominators alike. He managed to fill the Smith Center this night, which is encouraging to me - I hope that there will be more interesting musical acts here.

Opening for Buddy was a 13 year old guitar prodigy, Quinn Sullivan, who has been wow-ing the world since at least the age of 6 when he appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show. He is an incredible player who has been influenced by many of the greats, with a special fondness for Eric Clapton, as he proved by covered two Clapton numbers (well, one was actually Clapton's take on Hendrix's "Little Wing"). He has a great voice, as well, and while his sound is a little more commercial than I normally care for, he is a spectacular talent who has just released his debut CD, Cyclone, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Buddy Guy, of course, has been a staple in the blues world since his arrival in Chicago in 1957 and his work with all of the masters in that town. He went on to his own solo career and in the process influenced nearly all of the upcoming blues-rock guitarists, with gentlemen such as Hendrix & Clapton crowning him one of the best players of the genre. He has been known for his outrageous stage shows and, before the advent of wireless guitar systems, having the longest guitar cords, which would enable him to prowl the entirety of whatever venue he was playing.

At 75 (just shy of 76), he is still a ball of fire on stage, with presence, showmanship, edge and humor to spare. His fingers can still fly across the fretboard, although he does tend to fall back on somewhat noisy flash at times, whereas more tasty licks may have been more effective (in my humble opinion). I do like the fact that he has a little more grit in his sound than some (including Sullivan). I think he has learned what the average audience goes for - flash, dirty jokes, jams, and, of course, romps through the audience. He now uses a wireless system, naturally, which enabled him to travel through the Smith Center and even take the elevator up to the 3rd floor box seats! He brought Sullivan back on stage for his closer and the two of them trading licks was one of the highlights of the night.

I wish I could have seen Guy (and many of the other legends) back in the day in Chicago clubs, but it was still a bit of an honor to see one of the last remaining links to those times in concert and still knocking people out! With luck and the grace of the blues gods, he will have many more years of bringing the blues to the masses!