December 20, 2012

Album Review: Buddy Guy - Live at Legends

The first time I saw Buddy Guy in concert I thought, This is what Jimi Hendrix could’ve been like had he lived longer. It wasn’t so much because of the over-the-top showmanship Guy displayed on the electric guitar. Rather, it was because of his absolute command of the instrument. Guy could be in the middle of a ferocious blues rocker, then suddenly slip into playing a nursery rhyme only to then return to his original groove without missing a step. No fancy rhythm or drum beat could throw him off. His guitar worked for him, not the other way around.

That temerity and mind-boggling talent are palpable on the newly released Live at Legends, which highlights Guy’s 2010 residency at his renowned Chicago nightclub.

Instinctively shifting from traditional warhorses (“Mannish Boy,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You”) to his own latter-day favorites (“Best Damn Fool,” “Skin Deep”), Guy is inspired throughout. In particular, on a medley that has become a staple of his live shows, he summons John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” and Cream’s “Strange Brew” with unbridled urgency and enthusiasm.

While this recording no doubt reflects the spirit and spontaneity of a Buddy Guy concert, at eight live tracks (seven if you discount Guy’s now-infamous introduction) it does not represent an unabridged performance. Three previously unreleased studio tracks culled from the sessions for 2010’s Skin Deep, most notably the raucous “Coming For You,” suitably round out the album. Still, it’s the in-the-moment magic of the primary material that makes Live at Legends such a treat.