A capacity amphitheater crowd reveled in the iconic blues guitarist’s farewell performance in Grand Rapids last June. Revisit the 12th most popular Local Spins post of the year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: It was billed as his farewell Grand Rapids show, so legendary bluesman Buddy Guy’s June 23 tour stop at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park deservedly drew lots of attention from fans and Local Spins readers (putting the review at No. 12 on our Top 20 of ’23 list). But truth be told, this farewell tour has a long way to go and West Michigan fans still can catch Guy next summer when he plays a rescheduled date on Aug. 10, 2024 at Kalamazoo State Theatre. Get tickets here and scroll down for a photo gallery from the Meijer Gardens show.
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It’s only apropos that blues legend Buddy Guy would kick off shows on his farewell tour with “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues.”
Because at 86 — after a career spanning an incredible six decades — the blues have pumped through the influential, Grammy Award winner’s veins for a very long time, on many stages, in many studios and with many renowned collaborators.
So for his sold-out return to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in late June, the capacity crowd rightly cheered every note they heard, aiming to keep memories of this Chicago icon in their hearts for many more years.
Starting right off with powerful blues riffs and unmatched showmanship, sending laughs and getting applause from the get-go, Guy unfurled his licks from unusual stances, hip thrusting with the notes, and lifting the guitar up to play with his teeth.
“Am I playing too loud?” Guy asked at one point, to the crowd’s roars. “Just let me know … I get carried away.”
Guy carried away with an evening of renowned favorites, frequently giving recognition to the other blues players who helped teach and influence him along the way, from B.B. King and Muddy Waters to Howlin’ Wolf and Eric Clapton.
He had the crowd cheering again during a rendition of the classic, “Hoochie Coochie Man,” when he got to the end of a particular famous line, went quiet and the line went mostly unsaid. He stopped, and jokingly scolded the crowd for not singing it back along with him.
“OK, I didn’t come all this way to [mess] this song up,” Guy said to cheers. “Try again, sing it with me! It’s no fun if I do this up here by myself.”
Fans were up and dancing, reveling in every note and screaming for the next beloved favorite from this revered bluesman.
The audience also enthusiastically welcomed Texas blues guitarist Ally Venable, who opened the night while promoting her new album, “Real Gone,” which topped the Billboard Blues chart.
Her lively set featured powerful, blazing guitar licks backed by a top-notch band, earning a standing ovation in the process.
And like the crowed, she, too, hailed the legendary Guy, not only expressing excitement to be touring with the guitarist who joined her in the studio for the title track of her new recording, but noting that Guy was the one who told her she should record the album in the first place.
PHOTO GALLERY: Buddy Guy, Ally Venable at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Chelsea Whitaker