Buddy Guy Reminds New Jersey Why He Was Born to Play the Guitar

Wednesday night, I saw Buddy Guy at Wellmont Theater, a lovely 2,500-seat concert venue in Montclair, N.J. My ticket had been a last-minute impulse purchase triggered by a post from a Facebook friend. Age has been kind to Guy, and it felt as if time had stood still since I had first seen him in July 2016.

If I see this correctly, the now 85-year-old is the last man standing from the old generation of Chicago blues artists, such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Elmore James and Luther Allison. Guy still proved to be an incredible guitarist, compelling vocalist and a great showman.

Key aspects of Guy’s show like hitting his guitar with a drum stick, cursing like a sailor and walking off the stage into the audience while playing were familiar from the two previous occasions I had seen him. While as such you could say there were no big surprises, I take predictability when it’s delivered at such a high caliber.

Buddy Guy with Colin James

Before getting to some of Guy’s music, I’d like to say a few words about Canadian blues-rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Colin James who opened the night. According to his website, His career has spanned over 30 years, with a track record that includes 19 studio albums, 7 Juno Awards, 27 Maple Blues Awards and multi-platinum record sales. His most recent album Miles To Go garnered worldwide attention, debuting on the Billboard Blues Charts and holding a position on the RMR Blues Chart for 24 weeks, 14 weeks in the top 10. He continues to sell out shows across Canada with over 80,000 tickets sold on tours over the past 3 years. Colin was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2014.

I was completely new to Colin James and greatly enjoyed his 45-minute set. For some of his songs, he was joined by Guy’s excellent pianist and organist Marty Sammon. Here’s one of these tunes, the title track from James’ new album Open Road, which appeared in November 2021. James came back for one song in Guy’s set.

After a short break, the time had come for Buddy Guy. And he made it damn clear right from the get-go that he meant business with Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues. The title track of his seventh studio album from July 1991 was penned by Guy.

One thing Guy likes to do is to combine songs, which can result in lengthy jam-like performances. Not only can this make it tricky to distinguish between songs, but it also becomes an endurance test for filming! 🙂 Anyway, here’s one such example from Wednesday night: The Willie Dixon standard I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man and the Muddy Waters tune She’s Nineteen Years Old. Both songs were first recorded by Waters in 1954 and 1958, respectively.

I leave you with one more clip: Skin Deep, the title track of Guy’s 14th studio album from July 2008, which I felt was one of the highlights of the night. The soulful tune was co-written by Guy and his long-time collaborators Tom Hambridge and Gary Nicholson. Such a great tune!

Other songs in Guy’s set I could recognize included Feels Like Rain (written by John Hiatt; title track of Guy’s 1993 studio album), Got My Mojo Working (written by Preston “Red” Foster; from Guy and Junior Wells’ Live in Montreux, 1978), a snippet of Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love, Someone Else Is Steppin’ In (written by Denise LaSalle; from Guy’s 1994 studio album Slippin’ In), I Go Crazy (written by James Brown; from Feels Like Rain), Drowning On Dry Land (co-written by Mickey Gregory and Allen Jones; from Guy’s 2008 live album 2008-06-28: Glastonbury Festival) and Cheaper to Keep Her (co-written by Bonny Rice, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer; from Guy’s 2005 studio album Bring ‘Em In).

This review wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging Guy’s excellent backing group The Damn Right Blues Band. Apart from Marty Sammon, the line-up includes dynamite guitarist Ric “JazGuitar” Hall, Orlando Wright (bass) and the above-mentioned Tom Hambridge on drums.

Guy is taking his show to the Kodak Center in Rochester, N.Y. tonight. Other upcoming dates include Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada (April 9); Revolution Hall, Portland, Ore (April 21) and Moore Hall, Seattle, Wash. (April 22). The tour also includes a show scheduled for July 30, Guy’s 86th birthday, at Taft Theater in Cincinnati, Ohio. The schedule for his entire 2022 tour, which currently has gigs until September, is here.

I find Buddy Guy an amazing inspiration. If you dig electric blues Chicago-style and don’t mind cursing, I can highly recommend the man who truly was born to play the guitar and who damn right has got the blues.

Sources: Wikipedia; Colin James website; Buddy Guy website; YouTube

14 thoughts on “Buddy Guy Reminds New Jersey Why He Was Born to Play the Guitar”

  1. That’s great. Perfect-sized venue. We’ve seen Buddy a couple of times as well. He’s coming here too but probably won’t catch him this time. I’ve always wanted to see him at his club in Chicago. I was going to make a trip there (with Sonny Boy if I recall) a few years ago but something happened, some work thing I think and we couldn’t make it. Buddy never fails to disappoint and yeah, sadly, he is the last of his generation still standing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There are far too many ‘see ’em while you still can’ tours. I think it might have been you I was chatting with about maybe seeing Petty. No hurry I figured. Alas.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Me too – three of them, and all in June. It’s going to be nuts: Steely Dan and Steve Winwood, Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band, and Paul McCartney.

        The ticket for Macca I bought this year, so it’s “my fault,” if you want. The two other concerts were rescheduled.

        I’m still thinking about Bonnie Raitt – really dig her big time. The problem is it’s also in June and, hence, would be the fourth show during the same month. I’d go completely bananas!


  2. It’s cool you got to see him. My wife got me tickets for a NZ band for my birthday last July bit it keeps on bring rescheduled due to COVID. Hopefully on in Septmber, more than a year after originally scheduled.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m jealous Christian. Ever since I saw him in the Festival Express I’ve wanted to see him. He is a great guitar player plus a great entertainer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess I got lucky. I already had missed a show elsewhere in New Jersey by the time I saw Buddy’s gig in Montclair and decided to buy a ticket at the last minute.

      Buddy is scheduled to play in Marion, IL on May 4. Looks like that’s the closest he comes to you – about 200 miles, if I see it correctly.

      In July 2018, I drove 260 miles to Boston to see Neil Young solo, which I was really thrilled to do since I had never seen him. But I was off work at the time and stayed overnight, so it was doable.

      Still, it was a hike I’m not sure I would have done for Buddy, as much as I like him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow you are a traveling man! That is awesome that you got to see him now rather than wait.

        The farthest destination I ever traveled to was around 260 miles to see The Who back in the late eighties. We love our music Christian.

        Liked by 1 person

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