There were a few appealing musical options in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday night: Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum, K’Naan at First Avenue and Buddy Guy at the State.
While Chris Riemenschneider went to Stevens (read his report), I decided to first check out Guy’s opening act, 11-year-old blues sensation Quinn Sullivan from New Bedford, Mass.
With his doughy face, untied high tops and Justin Bieber hairdo in need of a trim, he looked his age. Quinn’s voice was choir-boy high, his phrasing studied, his ability to relate to the lyrics limited. However, he was a guitar playing savant. He played the blues Buddy Guy-style – fast and flashy. He commanded the stage, worked the room and offered an age-appropriate question: “Anybody heard of Eric Clapton” before launching into a Derek & the Dominoes tune.
Jonny Lang he’s not, but Quinn has a promising future.
Following Quinn’s 45-minute set, I headed to First Ave to catch the first four numbers by K’Naan, the Somali rapper who used to live in Minneapolis. He hit the stage with full force, showing great flow, focus and charisma. He was exciting from the get-go.
By the time I got back to the State, Guy, 74, was onstage, looking casual in a fancy track suit but playing with his usual flair and authority. He was passionte (“Fever”) and playful (on a long medley in which he imitated Albert King, Bill Withers, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones). The guitar hero did a vocal curtain call with his protégé Sullivan, who seemed lost trying to learn how to sing from a master.