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Blues legend Buddy Guy captivates Atlanta audience at Symphony Hall

Blues legend Buddy Guy played to an almost full Atlanta Symphony Hall on Sunday night in a concert that had been rescheduled due to a weather-related postponement from earlier in the year. The winner of six grammys and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member entertained the crowd for more than 90 minutes and left them with no doubt of his status as one of the all-time great blues guitarists.

Buddy Guy at Atlanta Symphony Hall, Atlanta, May 4 2014
Photography by Andrew Snook

Buddy Guy represents the “bridge” between the blues artists who were influential on him and those artists whom he directly influenced. Guy played with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and was hugely influenced by their music. In turn, modern standout blues guitarists like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Keith Richard have all pointed to Buddy Guy as being fundamental to their development as blues guitarists. His place in music’s history was assured long before his election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

Buddy Guy is 77 years old and throughout the evening at Atlanta Symphony Hall he proved time and again that he is aging with a rough-edged dignity, grace and charm that befits a man of his background. He is soft-spoken, lewd, articulate and profound and more often than not all in the same sentence! His music? That’s just timeless!

Coming onto a stripped down stage Buddy Guy joined his Damn Right Blues Band and launched into the Muddy Waters standard “Hoochie Coochie Man”. From then on the set was a mixture of classic blues standards from Waters, John Lee Hooker and others and his own music with a nod to the R&B artists of the 1950's and 1960’s like Marvin Gaye and Peggy Lee.

Highlights of his set included Robert Randolph’s “Meet Me In Chicago” which provided Guy ample opportunity to display the guitar skills that have made him a legend. However, I thought his versions of Peggy Lee’s “Fever”, John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain”, with emphasis on his vocals, were just as brilliant.

Guy was in complete control the entire evening, getting hushed, respectful silence during some of his anecdotes explaining his background and musical influences. When he wanted it the audience joined in heartily. It was particularly committed during "Someone Else is Steppin' In (Slippin In, Slippin Out)” and a little more reserved during “Feel Like Rain”.

From his album of the same name Guy's live version of the ballad “Skin Deep” was sublime. Guy’s vocal range rose and fell with the song and demonstrated a full range of sincere emotion just from its tone.

Despite his commanding stage presence, Guy decided halfway through his set to join the audience walking into the middle of the orchestra stalls and playing Muddy Waters’ “I Want You To Love Me” from somewhere around Row Z much to the delight of everyone.

Overall the night proved to be a great experience in the company of a living blues legend. Buddy Guy’s tour continues for another several months and if you get the opportunity to should go; it’s not often you get to see a musician of such current and historical relevance live.

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