A little over two weeks later, Buddy Guy entertained a packed house of blues fans at Toronto’s Massey Hall on Friday, April 1, 2005. His awesome blues band opened with an energetic intro that awed the audience! Orlando Wright's captivating bass beat seemed to beckon Buddy onto the stage where he appeared within a minute, wailing the hard drivin' vocals to "Going Down", while playing some of the most rousing blues guitar leads around.
The crowd was flabbergasted with excitement as Mr. Guy's iconic presence on the Massey Hall stage provided a huge adrenalin rush. He followed "Goin' Down" with the mesmerizing "She's Only 19 Years Old', which featured some of Buddy's incredible leads that were soulfully right from the heart! His rendition of "Sweet Home Chicago" was absolutely breathtaking to see done live by one of Chicago's very own. Buddy's inspired jazz influences in Peggy Lee's unforgettable "Fever", illustrates the diversity, genius and good taste that is Buddy Guy! His soulful rendition of the Bill Withers classic, "Keep On Using Me (Until You Use Me Up)" was a special musical moment for this writer. Buddy's expressiveness in vocals and guitar on this tune are incomparable. Keyboards and sax were incredible too on this '70s Withers classic!
Buddy spoke to the audience many times throughout this evening's entertainment. At one point he mentioned to us how much he loves Toronto and that he's had this strong affection for this town and Canada, ever since he made his first appearance here in 1967 at the Mariposa Folk Festival at Innis Lake Campground, Caledon East, Ontario. (This 1967 festival held during Canada's year-long Centennial celebrations, also showcased a young Joni Mitchell as well as bluesmen Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup and Richie Havens.) Buddy also bestowed much fine praise on Massey Hall, too -- and like James Brown and others who've graced its beautiful 1890s stage - he has a deep respect for this fine old concert hall, its history in music, and its exquisite acoustics.
The acoustics at Massey Hall are so great, that a few times Buddy sang to the audience without using or needing his microphone. His voice at these times and others sounded clear and smooth and as exuberantly youthful as he did 35 years ago. In fact these very fine vocal qualities of Buddy's haven't changed a bit, and seem exactly as they sounded many decades earlier. If we closed our eyes and forgot it's 2005, we could very well believe that we were hearing Buddy in 1975 or earlier - it was that good!
Buddy played whatever he wanted, all night long. He told the audience that he never rehearses with his band, and just plays whatever comes to mind at the time. His rhythm section backed him like the pros they are on each and every tune this very memorable evening of fine old blues. They also were given the freedom to do some incredible solos throughout this show, cued in by Buddy the true gentleman performer, who stood back and let them strut their stuff. Most notably was B-3 player Marty Sammon whose keys solos were absolutely mesmerizing, as well as rhythm guitarist Ric Hall: http://www.myspace.com/ricjazguitar and http://www.ricjazguitar.net who many times provided some amazing lead guitar riffs that were breathtaking to hear. (Hall is also guitarist with the outstanding 1950s Chess recording artists/vocal group The Dells, for the past 25 years). http://www.themightydells.com/music_best.html
Also of note were the center stage sax solos by Jay Moynihan that really helped show Buddy's fine band as the supreme pros they are. All the band members including bassist Orlando Wright and drummer Tim Austin performed incredible solos sometime throughout this fine evening's entertainment. Buddy's generosity in allowing these fellow artists their lengthy solos, shows him to be a band leader who cares about letting his sidemen share some of the limelight, too! He also by doing this, lets his audience know what a fine band he truly has backing him.
Buddy mostly played old blues standards that he really liked and very few Buddy Guy songs this night. Buddy's one memorable 'Buddy Guy' tune this evening, was the emotionally and soulfully charged "Feels Like Rain". Guy's vocals were clear as a bell and as soulful and youthful as one could ever wish for - proving once again that he's still got what it takes to sing a song the best around. He might even have the most beautifully resonant blues voice in history!
Buddy spoke well of several great artists including the great Muddy Waters, who he says "Paved the way with his electric blues, for artists like myself." He also spoke highly of the 'King of the Blues', B.B. King, who personally told this writer once the same thing about Muddy Waters. Buddy also talked with pleasure about the all-encompassing Jimi Hendrix, and the father of the boogie John Lee Hooker; as well as the one and only Eric Clapton, 'king of rockin' blues'!
After Buddy's mention about Muddy -- he went right into Willie Dixon’s "Hootchie Cootchie Man", which 'brought Chicago on home' to Toronto. After he mentioned Hendrix out came some awesome guitar licks from "Purple Haze" and "Voodoo Child". I couldn't see a wa-wa pedal, but it sounded like there was one used. Maybe guitarist Hall was playing that part - it was hard to tell. This writer was thinking throughout these fabulous musical tributes to other artists, "Yes, we like the same music!" Buddy's vocals were clear and beautifully resonant on Clapton's "Strange Brew", with out-of-this-world guitar playing to match! His rendition of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" was electrifying to say the least; and a rare privilege to see performed live by Mr. Guy and his very fine blues band.
I've always had a passion for artists who are off-the-cuff, unrehearsed and totally live in their performances. The spontaneous energy they give off is always 300 per cent. This night at Massey Hall with Buddy proved to be just that! Nothing contrived or phony in the music -- and the same genuine rapport from the man himself, when Buddy on many occasions talked to us like he was entertaining friends at his home. He proved to be a very warm and kind person, telling us what his favorite songs are, and then going ahead and playing them. You couldn't ask for more than that from any artist!
Buddy played some slow, mournful blues and high intensity, blistering blues leads and chords he describes as "the old Buddy Guy." He paid respect to the late great Muddy Waters, with his own beautiful and rousing rendition of "Hootchie Cootchie Man" - a song made famous by Muddy, but was written by Muddy's bassist -- the much respected Willie Dixon.
Buddy even played some Hendrix with his "Purple Haze"/"Voodoo Child" rendition - ending this scorcher by playing with his teeth. This brought to mind a documentary I saw where Buddy mentions his son in conversation with him one day after a Hendrix concert where he met Hendrix. He mentioned to his dad, that Hendrix told him that Buddy was 'his' major influence -- where he got his inspiration. Then Buddy's son asked his dad, "Why didn't you ever tell me that?" Buddy's humble reply was, "You never asked me, son."
At one point in this evening's entertainment, Buddy got inventive and imaginative using a drum stick as if it was a wooden slide or violin bow. This gave his guitar some unique sounds that were extremely beautiful to see and to hear. I've seen the Guess Who's Randy Bachman (Bachman, Turner Overdrive) do this same thing with a drum stick; but Buddy's technique, application and the sounds he got were totally different in every way from Bachman's. This solo "from the soul" (as Sonny Boy Williamson ll once put it), was certainly unique and bluesy in every way!
The most thrilling highlights for this writer happened twice this evening! The first time Buddy left the stage via stage steps to the center aisle on the floor in the orchestra seat area was absolutely stunning to behold. As he walked along this center aisle past many fans, he continued to play his guitar and sing with the use of his remote access pickups and mic transmitter hooked up to his amp. Buddy walked right past his fans and into the front lobby of Massey Hall, where he played to a few fans gathered there and a photographer who instantly snapped Buddy's picture. The music continued in the lobby for a minute or two, with Buddy entertaining his fans while walking around like a true blues troubadour of days gone by. Only, those days never saw anything this dazzling - I can guarantee that! I was hoping he would have walked out onto the street while still playing and singing, which would have blown everyone's mind out there!
What's really mind-blowing is that Buddy reprised this blues walk of his through Massey Hall again, while playing the quintessential B.B. King blues favorite "Rock Me Baby". This second time, after walking up the center aisle and into the lobby, Buddy walked up the stairs and into the first balcony area, to entertain the fans up there. Prior to this, while still on stage, he called up to them to let them know, "You're some of my favorite people." He then proved it by joining them in the first balcony guitar in hand, rockin' the house with some of the best blues you'll ever hear!
During Buddy's second enjoyable excursion from the stage -- after walking up the stairs to the first balcony at Massey Hall -- he went right up front to first row and leaned over the edge of the railing. With guitar and mic in hand, he sang and played the blues to the orchestra seat fans below. He also played directly to various sections of the first balcony, and also (looking up), played from there to the second balcony fans too! This sight was just too beautiful and unbelievable to describe. It was that good!
After this musically showy moment, Buddy walked back up the first balcony aisle, then through the 2nd floor lobby and down the stairs again. He was soon back on stage continuing his amazing guitar leads and vocals on "Rock Me Baby", without missing a beat all the way through his second very entertaining musical tour of the great Massey Hall -- while sightseeing with his fans close-up and very personal. It's only an artist who cares about his fans as people and friends, and cares about the venue and city he's in, who could be as thoughtful as Buddy is to go to all the extra effort to entertain his fans like he does this way.
Buddy's fabulous solos complemented by those of his awesome lead guitarist; drummer; bassist and keyboard player would have been enough to satisfy this audience. If he'd only played his well-known hits and touched on only a few of the great Chicago blues classics would also have been satisfying enough. But, to do all of this, and so effortlessly and with the joy that comes from really loving to entertain his fans, was as good as the best entertainers have ever been known to care enough to do for their fans. If Buddy had gotten paid double this night, it would have been worth it. He gave of himself about five times as much as he had to in order to make his many fans feel happy they'd been to one of his concerts and had one of the best times in their entire lives.
It's great that Buddy had as much of a good time entertaining us this evening, as we did enjoying every lovin' minute of it. This special privilege of seeing the one and only Buddy Guy entertain us on guitar and vocals with some of the finest blues in the world, I'm sure will be close to our hearts and souls for the rest of our lives. I've read a few postings on blues sites that seem to echo these same sentiments this writer shares after seeing Buddy Guy perform live this very special night of blues at Massey Hall. A universal feeling of love for this man's contribution to the blues that's still going strong, is a common sentiment that Buddy Guy instills in his fans. The simple reason being, is that he puts out and deservedly gets back all the appreciation and love that comes his way! This is why we enjoyed Buddy Guy's concert and his personal appearance in front of us so much this very memorable evening of blues at Massey Hall here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Buddy Guy Band:
Buddy Guy: Lead & Rhythm Guitar/Lead Vocals
Ric Hall: Rhythm/2nd Lead Guitar
Orlando Wright: Bass
Tim Austin: Drums
Marty Sammon: Keyboards
Jay Moynihan: Sax
Buddy Guy's web site is a captivating visit and well worth checking out, as is Ric 'Jaz Guitar' Hall's.