Buddy Guy-Damn Right Farewell Tour-Mayo Pac and Bergen Pac

Buddy Guy – Damn Right Farewell Tour

Mayo PAC – Morristown, NJ & Bergen PAC – Englewood, NJ – May 3, May 9, 2024
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf

It’s not everyday when a legendary musician performs in your state. It’s even less often when that legend performs in your little state twice in one week, in two different venues. This musician was none other than the spectacular, award-winning, blues singer and guitarist Buddy Guy. New Jersey fans were honored and beyond thrilled to welcome Guy at sold out performances at Mayo PAC, on May 3rd and Bergen PAC, on May 9th.

These show were a part of Guy’s Damn Right Farewell Tour. It’s not surprising that Buddy Guy, who’ll turn 88 in July, announced last year that he’s going to be retiring from touring. It’s been a long ride for the Louisiana born Guy, who began performing in the 1950’s, moved to Chicago and began recording with fellow blues musicians in the early 60s, and released his first solo LP, This is Buddy Guy! in 1968. That was the start of Guy’s remarkable musical career, which has included the release of 33 studio albums, winning eight Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and being awarded the Kennedy Center Honors, amongst many other accolades. While Buddy Guy is a blues guitar player, he’s been an influence for some of the greatest guitarists, regardless of genre, including Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck, to name a few.

Guy’s music is often described as “Chicago Blues,” but his artistry is frequently infused with flavors of jazz, soul and whatever Guy’s creative spirit is feeling while he performs. Buddy Guy is not one who can be easily boxed in, nor is he predictable. He’s surely not your typical octogenarian. When Guy plays the guitar his fingers still move with the speed and dexterity of someone half, maybe a quarter his age. His voice likewise remains strong as he sings the blues, telling tales of woe and wonder with his powerful, gritty, aching tone. However, unlike other blues singers who might live the part of the blues, appearing melancholy or embattled by what has befallen them, watching Guy perform in both NJ venues he clearly appears to take life and the blues in stride….a big humorous stride. Guy is not an old-fashioned, demure gentleman. Rather, there was a gleam of mischief in his eyes and a cheeky grin on his face as he joked with the crowd and sang his songs, both of which often involved risqué topics. Guy was quick to laugh with the audience at his “naughtiness,” knowing it’s generally unexpected for someone his age but totally expected for those who’ve been to a Buddy Guy performance.

Those who’ve attended a Buddy Guy performance have also become accustomed to his typical travels through the audience. Guy loves these opportunities to connect with his fans and the passage of time has not diminished this desire. Midway through the performance, while playing his guitar, Guy descended the stage stairs, was escorted up the aisle through a sea of adoring fans, crossed the lobby, and returned down the aisle through another mob of fans before emerging onto the stage. The broad smile on his face was a clear indication that this excursion brought as much thrill to Guy as it did to his audience.

Most of Guy’s band, the Damn Right Blues Band, have been with him for decades, including Ric Hall on guitar, Tom Hambridge on drums and Orlando Wright on bass. The recent addition is keyboardist Dan Souvigny. Hall, a powerhouse on the guitar, intensely jammed on the strings, spun his electric guitar and displayed fierce facial expressions. Souvigny, the youngster in the band, looked anything but a typical blues musician but played those keys with the passion, skill and dynamic energy of one thoroughly steeped in the blues. Joining the band for several numbers, playing a custom made Buddy Guy Fender guitar with the Polka-dot finish, was Guy’s son Greg. As Greg performed Buddy stepped back, allowing his son to shine, with a look of pride on his face.

Opening for Buddy Guy on this tour is his friend of more than a half century, Bobby Rush, a musician, composer and singer who also hails from the “Chicago Blues” music scene. Rush has won twelve Blues Music Awards and a Grammy Award for his 2016 album Porcupine Meat. Looking at Rush, it was almost unfathomable that he’s 90 years old. His appearance, energy, musical skills (on guitar, vocals and harmonica) as well as his risqué wit, similar to Guy, belied his age. “I got a problem with my girlfriend and my wife,” Rush sang to the crowd with a smirk on his face. His grin was met with the crowd’s laughter as he sang, “You can have the blues if your woman leaves you; you can also have the blues if she stays too long.” Rush took his musical humor down to the crowd, causing the women he sang to about “thongs and toothbrushes” to blush, as he laughingly apologized to their partners with his mischievous grin. Like his friend Buddy Guy, there are not many 90 year olds with the tremendous musical talent, energy and bawdiness of Bobby Rush.

However, while Rush spread humor and joy throughout the crowd he also shared bits about the racism faced by musicians in the South in the 50s and 60s. “White people wanted to hear us sing but they didn’t want to see the face of who it was coming from,” he shared, obviously remembering the pain. “Thank you that I can come here now and sing for you,” he said with gratitude to the cheers of the crowd. “I was once asked why I sing the blues. I sing the blues because that’s what I know. All music comes from the blues. The blues is the mother of all music. So, if you don’t like the blues you probably don’t like your mother!” Rush said with a chuckle.

During Guy’s performance, whether he played an original number like, “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues,” the title song from his 1991 album or covers of his favorite artists, including Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain,” Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” or Muddy Water’s “She’s Nineteen Years Old,” he performed each and every song with the extraordinary passion and spirit of someone who knows the blues. However, you don’t need to know Buddy Guy’s songs or the songs of the artists he’s covering to connect to the music. The blues are really about feeling and Buddy Guy makes you feel with his energy, humor and vitality. It’s no wonder that Buddy Guy is a real American musical treasure….a legend. He’s one of our last connections to the origins of an historical era…the beginnings of the blues. It’s not everyday when a legendary musician travels through your state. How lucky we were to welcome him twice in one week to our little corner of the world.