Buddy Guy brings fiery Chicago blues to Coquitlam, but can’t outshine opener Jonny Lang



Blues legend Buddy Guy brought a taste of Chicago to the wilds of Coquitlam last night (September 28), but the verifiable guitar legend was outshone by a “kid” 45 years younger than himself.

Jonny Lang opened the show with an hour-long set that included a showstopping version of Tinsley Ellis’s “A Quitter Never Wins”–which Lang first recorded on his 1997 debut album, Lie to Me, when he was only 16–as well as the inspiring “Red Light”, taken from his 2003 release, Long Time Coming.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a singer-guitarist express as much raw emotion as Lang did last night. In the parlance of Fubar–not to mention Fubar II–he was totally “givin’ er” throughout.

It didn’t hurt that he was accompanied by a knockout band that included two guys from Nashville–guitarist Akil Thompson and keyboardist Dwan Hill–and a couple more from Minneapolis–bassist James Anton and drummer Barry Alexander. When it came time for Thompson to sneak in a couple of solos, he proved to be the paragon of subtlety and taste.

Guy took the stage to the strains of “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues”, the title track of his Grammy-winning 1991 album, and immediately laid out the searing, raunchy blues licks that made him a hero to the likes of Jimi Hendrix back in the ’60s. The 76-year-old native of Louisiana, long based in the Windy City, went on to perform the uplifting ode to racial equality, “Skin Deep”, and the autobiographical “74 Years Young” from his latest disc, 2010’s Living Proof.

The part in Guy’s set where he imitates the six-string stylings of various pickers–from John Lee Hooker to Eric Clapton to Albert King–is getting a little stale–especially if who’ve seen him do it four or five times. And the erratic pacing of his setlist, with all those sudden starts and unexpected stops, is a little off-putting.

All in all, Guy’s showmanship–whether playing a guitar behind his back or whipping one with a towel–was no match for the soulful intensity of Lang. Not that they were competing or anything.

And it would have been nice if the two had gotten together and traded licks at the end of the night, seeing as the blues is made for jammin’. I for one was quite surprised that that didn’t happen.

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