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Buddy Guy at Hollywood Bowl 8/10/16.

Buddy Guy at Hollywood Bowl 8/10/16. Setlist.As Buddy Guy left the stage on Wednesday night at the Hollywood Bowl, my initial thought is that nothing I had listened to in my 25 years of enjoying the blues could have prepared me for the dichotomy between his recordings and his explosive, funny, and endearing stage performance. The 80-year old performer oozes with charm, and has the mean blues guitar chops and resume to back it up. Playing a litany of blues favorites from his catalog and other greats, his guitar playing was as expected: Rough, nuanced, and gritty, as all good blues should be, but in reality, this all took a backseat to his personality, which came through in his playing and was reinforced with his camaraderie with the audience.

Buddy Guy at Hollywood Bowl 8/10/16.After his first song mostly reminded the audience that he still has what it takes to lay down some sick blues riffs, he remarked “I’m gonna play something so funky you can smell it”, and proceeded to do just that; playing a slow blues number that had so much contrast between soulful, clean tone melodic lines and bends, and rough distorted washes of sound created through letting the open strings ring out as he shredded. This was just one of his signature guitar moves, also employing everything from using a drum stick not only as a slide but percussively as a pick replacement, using his teeth while soloing (to demonstrate what he learned from Jimi Hendrix, one of his ‘teachers’), and using the entire gamut of dynamic contrast.

Still, his personality outshone the playing in general, making the cavernous Hollywood Bowl feel like drinking beers on a porch with some buddies while jamming. He forayed into the audience mid-solo, walking around serenading guests and had a pithy repartee with the crowd, with the ability to cajole and incite at the same time; not only for the lone audience member who shouted out a song name in a break, but also for the entire audience’s lack of singing familiar lyrics during breaks (apparently LA messed this up, but Tokyo didn’t).

Just to highlight this closeness with an audience versus the typical artist antics, he closed the show by checking his watch mid song, noting the time, and cutting it off to make sure he used every spare second and not one to many, disappearing off-stage suddenly to make room for the main event.

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