The Monday concert paired one of music’s most influential bluesman with a blues-rock virtuoso for a night of guitar-driven joy. The Local Spins review and photos.
For bluesman Buddy Guy’s longtime keyboard player Marty Sammon, there’s nothing quite like electrifying an enthusiastic crowd of devoted blues fans — something Guy and his band managed brilliantly on Monday night at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
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“You spend all day getting ready to make someone else happy,” Sammon told Local Spins following Monday’s concert. “Making other people happy makes us happy, especially Buddy.”
Plenty of concertgoers went home in a joyful mood after a show that paired the legendary 82-year-old Guy with renowned, 41-year-old blues-rocker Kenny Wayne Shepherd in a double-bill that displayed the rich history of the wide-ranging genre.
“The future of blues may change, but blues is going to be rooted in people forever,” said Sammon, who’s played keyboards for Guy for 17 years. “American music is the greatest flow chart, the greatest family tree ever. I hope that doesn’t go away.”
Judging by the reception accorded both performers on Monday, blues music is in good hands.
From the get-go, fans stood to cheer Shepherd as he took the stage with his band and dove into a shredding set, playing several crowd favorites, as well as songs from Shepherd’s latest release, “The Traveler.”
Shepherd led his band through every kind of blues, from the famous 12-bar blues shuffle style to rock-infused ballads. The set even included a tune from Shepherd’s other group, The Rides, in which he plays along with guitarist Stephen Stills and keyboardist Barry Goldberg.
At the end of Shepherd’s set, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and wouldn’t sit down until he came back for an encore.
“All right,” Shepherd declared. “Seems like we’ve got some blues fans in here!”
He then rolled out a crowd favorite, “Blue on Black,” and finished his set with the iconic Jimi Hendrix tune, “Voodoo Child.”
But the night of blues was just getting started.
‘PLAYIN’ TO THE SUN GOING DOWN’
Guy, an eight-time Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, came out blazing as always, calling out his tune, “You Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues.”
He demonstrated the showmanship blues fans have come to love over the years, keeping fans cheering and even laughing with his trickery — from playing his blazing solo while his guitar rested on top of a nearby amplifier to playing part of a solo by plucking strings with a drumstick.
“I love playin’ to the sun going down,” he said at one point. “I don’t get this from every crowd. You’re going to make me play all night, aren’t you?”
As the show progressed, Guy gave a nod to the great guitar players who inspired him. He began a medley of sorts, playing licks and singing bits of classic tunes made famous by the likes of B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and others. Along the way, he wandered into the amphitheater crowd to solo and sing.
The crowd of 1,800 responded with frequent standing ovations and calls for more.
“I come from Louisiana. We got a thing called gumbo,” Guy said. “They put all kinds of stuff in there. Shrimp, crawfish. That’s how I play: gumbo blues! You never know what kind of s*** I’ll throw in there.”
That gumbo of blues and tributes to blues greats reflected the spirit of Guy’s latest work, the 2018 Grammy-winning album, “The Blues is Alive and Well,” which blends the rich history of the blues with where the genre is headed next.
Afterward, Sammon also reflected on the state of the blues, insisting that emerging performers need to put their own, personal stamp on their music.
“The new generation — you can be rooted in the blues, but you also need to make something new out of it,” he said. “Play what you live. Life isn’t what it was like back in the 1930s. It’s all changing. How do you make something bluesy, from where you are from?”
Of course, Guy has been making something bluesy — and making people happy — for more than 65 years, and he did it all again on Monday night.
PHOTO GALLERY: Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Anthony Norkus