Every January Buddy Guy plays a series of shows at his bar Legends, I’m guessing because he probably gives himself a discount on the booking fee and probably lets himself drink for free. Win win. Although over the years my interest in the blues has waned like the average American’s interest in swimming after the end of the Olympics, I still have an appreciation for the real bluesmen who’ve influenced so many others. Just as I have an appreciation for Britney Spears for influencing so many girls to become mentally unbalanced tramps. But I digress.
Surprisingly, I didn’t enjoy this show as much as I had hoped. (Coincidentally, mentally unbalanced tramps aren’t as much fun as they sound, either.) First off, it seems to be more about the showmanship than the playing for Buddy these days. There were some great solos, none of which I saw because he seemed to perform them all not on stage, but while wandering around the floor of the club. This meant about 15 people at any given time could watch him while the rest of the crowd either craned their necks or resigned themselves to watching his solid but otherwise unspectacular backup band. The club is small enough that this cheap move is as necessary as a pair of binoculars at the dinner table. Further adding to the annoyance during his forays into the crowd was the trail of photographers following him like a bunch of plague-ridden rats following an urban pied piper. I’m especially talking about the hairy little guy from the Sun-Times. How many fucking pictures do you need, dude? If you’re that good, get a couple shots, put down the camera and enjoy the show. Same goes for all you goat ball lickers with the cellphone cameras. But back to Buddy. Mustang Sally? Serious? You have an entire catalog from which to choose and you put the most overplayed, generic, white boy blues band coverin', overweight girl dancing in the halter top, wedding DJ staple song on the set list? Thanks, man. That's exactly what I came to hear.
Second, the club has lots of tables. Nice if it’s a normal night, but not so much when you’re selling the place out for Buddy. So if you don’t line up several hours before the show to get a coveted table, then you’re herded into the standing room areas designated by black and yellow tape on the floor. This is done to keep the aisles clear so that servers can keep the drink revenues flowing, but it just made me feel as if a loose sleeve would get sucked into a piece of heavy machinery and tear off my arm if I stepped out of bounds. Security certainly acted like it. Buddy, lose the tables for January.
I guess if you're they type that wants to say you saw him then his run of shows in January will probably fit the bill. Otherwise, you can probably find a more enjoyable experience at any given Chicago blues club on a more quiet weekday evening. Or grab a CD of his earlier stuff and sit back in your living room with a cold one. Just try not to get caught in any heavy machinery.