The Fillmore Minneapolis — the new music club with the legendary name — finally got a legendary performer.
The seemingly ageless 83-year-old knows tried-and-true showmanship as well as endless guitar licks. The 85-minute performance demonstrated plenty of the former, perhaps at the expense of the latter.
At times he played his instrument with a drumstick, his teeth or only his fretting hand. He cooed suggestive lyrics and pointed out that he didn’t write them. He playfully thrust his pelvis into his guitar on seductive songs and made sexy noises by rubbing his guitar against his body. He improvised a lyric when he broke a guitar string and then handed it to a woman in the front row.
He strolled through the crowd, even into the balcony, singing and playing his guitar. He engaged with fans who shouted at him, honoring requests and putting down loudmouths. He led singalongs and chided fans when they didn’t sing loud enough.
Anyone who has seen the eight-time Grammy winner in any of his recent appearances at Mystic Lake Casino or the Minnesota Zoo will recognize all those ploys. The crowd — seated in what’s usually a stand-on-the-mainfloor space — was more boisterous than Guy’s recent Twin Cities audiences. But he knew how to roll with it, dropping a frequent F-bomb to emphasize a point or firing off a sharp quip to quell an obnoxious fan.
Early on, Guy’s performance seemed like it might be more music and less showmanship. He hit the stage roaring on guitar on his 1991 tune “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” and then made Willie Dixon’s standard “Hoochie Coochie Man” his own with a slow and subtle reading before funking it up with an advanced sense of raucous dynamics.
However, the ensuing “I Just Want to Make Love to You” made it clear that the Chicagoan was out to be more playful than passionate. The rest of the night proved to be more of a tease than terrific music. Backed by a top-notch quartet, Guy offered tastes of licks made famous by B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton as well as snippets of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” and Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love.”
There were a couple of times when Guy thrillingly threw himself fully into his performance: John Hiatt’s gospelly southern soul “Feels Like Rain” was his most heartfelt and nuanced vocal, and Little Milton’s “Grits Ain’t Groceries” was fast, flashy and full of feeling.
That’s the kind of masterful musicality that made Guy a hero to Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others who became legends themselves. That’s why he can rightfully call the blues club he’s owned in Chicago since 1989 Buddy Guy’s Legends.