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Jonny Lang + Buddy Guy : Feels like church, only with beer

A little text amongst many photos never hurt… enjoy.

As I walk to the show tonight, I walk with enthusiasm through the cold rain and I am reminded of my time in NYC when I walked to church early in the morning, sleet and ice pelting me in the face, determined to get there on time.  Though I am not on time tonight, I am certainly determined.

I have wanted to see Buddy Guy since I was about 15 years old if memory serves.  It wasn’t too long after that when I discovered Jonny Lang, whom I haven’t seen live yet either.  Jonny is already on stage as the usher takes me to my seat, a couple glares at me, perturbed they have to stand up to let me in.  I struggle to get my coat off without accidentally punching someone in the face.  I am trying to pay attention to what is happening on stage, but my cold wet hands and face are distracting me– I am Frazzled.  Frazzled the way I often was upon arrival at church in NYC, having taken 12 blocks and 2 trains to get there, in who knows what kind of weather.

It isn’t long before a familiar blues beat calms and the lyrics to “Red Light” seep in.  Jonny muses… “it feels like somewhere along the journey I lost a piece of my soul… I don’t know how to get it back again”  Preach.  The band moves into “That Great Day” I sit on the edge of my seat, one hand holding the other tightly, feeling the familiar tension I feel when trying not to shed tears in public.  Which I *hate* doing, but often find myself doing in church.  Only one escaped, but I let it slide when I realized some of my very favorite things were converging on stage– blues music, and the Gospel.  The occasional “amen” is heard in the crowd, but unlike my church, the person shouting it probably has a beer in his hand.  Jonny finishes, astonishing us once again with his powerful vocals and guitar solos.  I clap, tipsy rednecks scream, and the crew gets the stage ready for the one and only Buddy Guy.

I always knew Buddy was a character- you can hear it in his lyrics.  But when he took the stage, he was equal parts guitar legend and comedian.  He is “76 Years Young” and plays the guitar with his teeth.  The girl next to me claps her hands with just enough enthusiasm that it makes me think that she knows she is supposed to like the music, or that she is trying to like the music because her boyfriend does.  It reminds me of sitting next to someone who is only at church to appease their Mom.  Buddy stops to tell a story, which he did several times, and I enjoyed every bit of it.  He has been around a long time, he may have a gritty sense of humor, but to me those stories are valuable.  The loud tipsy woman behind me yells for him to play– a distraction as unwelcome as a screaming child during a sermon, except she is an adult and should know better.  I sit forward to better hear what he is saying– but it is not long before he launches into another song, and before I know it I don’t need to lean forward anymore because he is walking through the crowd and up into the balcony, playing the whole time and never missing a lick.

Headed for the exit, through the chatter of everyone (most people) who thoroughly enjoyed the show, I hear the talk of a person or two who clearly only came to drink and hear Jonny Lang wail on a guitar, and the occasional person who before the show, really didn’t know who Buddy Guy is, which is hard for me to believe if you like blues at all.  Did they not appreciate all that happened on the stage tonight?  It is like walking out of a crowded church after an amazing service and hearing people complain about not hearing their favorite song or their favorite Pastor didn’t preach.  It might have taken me a while (I think I was 13 when I first heard SRV), but my appreciation for Stevie Ray Vaughan only led me to go deeper into the roots of blues music and find out who inspired him.  (I wrote a post about that in case you are interested…I would encourage everyone to dig a little deeper into the blues).  I chat with a lady on the way out who has seen them both perform before, and tell her the show was worth the 17 year wait.  I head back to my car in the sleet…ears ringing…refreshed, a little piece of my soul restored.

Here’s a little live version of “That Great Day” I found.. there have been several people in my family and friend groups who have lost loved ones this week.  This is for you.


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