Last night (July 26), I had a chance to see Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. From the moment I started exploring Buddy’s music in greater detail earlier this year (admittedly very late!) I wanted to see this amazing blues guitarist live. And when I learned he is doing a summer tour with Jeff Beck and they are playing in my neck of the woods, it was an easy decision.
PNC Bank Arts Center is a great outdoor venue, in my opinion – not too big, not to small. I’ve seen other fantastic gigs there, including Santana, Steve Winwood, The Allman Brothers and Tom Petty. Yesterday, the weather was brutally hot, so luckily the show only started at 8:00 pm!
Buddy kicked things off, which almost made it feel like he was opening up for Jeff. While Jeff played the longer set, it should have been the other way around. After all, it was Buddy who was around first and influenced Jeff and many other great guitarists, such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Keith Richards! I read Clapton once called him “the best guitar player alive.”
Buddy was truly on a misson, saying he wants to save the blues. His guitar-playing was simply out of this world. I also thought he had a pretty strong voice. Both certainly did not give you any clue that the man is close to 80 years old. In fact, his 80th birthday (July 30) is just around the corner! In addition to playing and singing with an impressive amount of energy, Buddy also went on a little hike off the stage to walk through the audience in the front of the venue – pretty cool.
I thought highlights of Buddy’s set included Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues, Hoochie Coochie Man and Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol’ Me). He also played two songs from his latest album, Born to Play the Guitar, including the title song. Unfortunately, he did not perform my favorite from that album, Whiskey, Beer & Wine, which currently is also my overall favorite Buddy Guy song.
Next it was Jeff’s turn. He certainly delivered as well! In addition to his amazing guitar-playing, I was mostly impressed with his band, especially singer Rosie Bones who also appears on his latest album Loud Hailer, singer Jimmy Hall and dynamite bassist Tal Wilkenfeld.
I think my favorite of Jeff’s set was the version of the Sam Cooke classic, A Change is Gonna Come. Jimmy Hall did an outstanding job on vocals. Other highlights included Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and the instrumental of The Beatles’ A Day In the Life, which was the final song of the night.
Perhaps the only thing that could have made the show even better would have been at least one song both of these fantastic guitarists would have performed together, just like they do in the above photo!