2009 The Charleston Gazette Review: Buddy Guy Concert

2009 The Charleston Gazette Review: Buddy Guy Concert

2009 The Charleston Gazette Review: Buddy Guy Concert
By: V.C. McCabe

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mountain Stage kicked off FestivALL Friday night with an electrifying blues concert at The Clay Center featuring Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, Shemekia Copeland, Duke Robillard, and an extended set by the legendary Buddy Guy.

The show opened with Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, who invigorated the crowd with a loud and energetic blues performance that was reminiscent of Chuck Berry.

The Blues Imperials have been together for two decades, and the familiarity bred from such a long history results in a natural, cohesive sound that the The Chicago Tribune accurately described as “raucous, pure Chicago blues.”

Singer Shemekia Copeland followed, and immediately ripped into the song “Dirty Water.” Her music blends classic blues with a soulful rock thunder.

As a child, Copeland once appeared onstage at the legendary Cotton Club with her father, blues guitarist Johnny Copeland. That auspicious beginning was appropriate for the powerhouse singer, who possesses pipes worthy of the great blues divas.

Shemekia was engaging and personable between songs, and earned a standing ovation with her gospel-tinged performance of “Big Brand New Religion.”

Blues guitarist Duke Robillard performed at the very first Mountain Stage show that I attended twelve years ago, so I anticipated his return almost as much as Buddy Guy’s set.

Robillard’s current release, “Stomp! The Blues Tonight,” livens up his bluesy sound with splashes of swing and jazz that recall his days with the 1960s jump blues ensemble, Roomful of Blues.

The entire final hour of the concert was deservedly devoted to the incomparable, phenomenal Buddy Guy. The influential blues guitarist certainly merited the special treatment, considering his list of fans includes Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King. He refers to Muddy Waters as a contemporary and Hendrix as a youngster with unquestionable authority.

The exceptionally talented and charismatic Guy began his set by shouting, “I came here to play the blues, man. Watch this!”

Known for his quirky showmanship, the Louisiana bluesman pulled out all of his tricks for Mountain Stage. His comically distorted facial expressions were coupled with several guitar-playing stunts, including using his teeth and a drumstick to pluck the strings.

Guy sent the crowd into a frenzy by exiting the stage during one song to perform among the people. Despite the excitement of the mob, he was able to carry his guitar through the aisles mostly unhindered and it was quite a spectacle to witness.

Guy rejoined his band on stage to finish the extraordinary set with a medley of covers, during which he imitated everyone from Clapton and Hendrix to Bill Withers.

All of the acts returned to the stage to join Larry Groce and the Mountain Stage band for a cover of a Booker T. Jones song, which served as the finale to what surely must have been the best Mountain Stage concert to date.

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