Buddy Guy leaves lasting impression at ELLNORA

After roughly 60 years of playing the guitar, Buddy Guy hasn’t missed a beat.

On Friday night, the blues music icon played an hour-and-a-half-long set to a packed house at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ Tryon Festival Theatre. Gatherers in the outdoor Sonic Garden were also able to watch the show from a free live stream of the ELLNORA stage.

Cracking jokes and even clowning around with the photographers, the 77-year-old guitarist certainly didn’t let his age hinder the energy of his performance. He made playing the guitar look effortless and natural, all while engaging the crowd and spewing complicated riffs and intricate impromptu solos.

Urbana is not unfamiliar territory for Guy; he has played here in the past, including a show back in 1983. Today, the six-time Grammy-winning artist is known as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. His talents have been recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s National Medal of Arts, Rolling Stone, and through many more awards.

In the past, the acclaimed musician has collaborated with guitar virtuosos Johnny Winter, Carlos Santana, Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton, among many others.

“How’s everybody doin’ tonight?” he asked near the beginning of the show, inviting raucous cheers from the crowd. One lone spectator shouted, “How are you doin’?” The audience laughed, and Guy thought for a second. With a sincere smile, he replied that the crowd was making him feel “on top of the world.”

The rest of the show took on an intimate, informal atmosphere; although there were hundreds of audience members present, it seemed like he was connecting with each of them personally. Members of the audience would shout their song requests, and he would play them — only if the whole crowd would sing parts of the chorus enthusiastically.

During his set, his numbers included “Five Long Years,” “Feels Like Rain,” “Someone Else is Steppin’ In” and “Meet Me in Chicago,” a song from his newest album, “Rhythm & Blues.” The record was released in late June earlier this summer.

At one point during the show, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer strolled up and down both aisles on the main floor. The audience was euphoric, standing, cheering and eagerly capturing the moment with their smartphones. Guy even sat down in one of the few empty seats and strummed among the spectators.

Between songs, Guy talked about his past. He reminisced about his childhood growing up in rural Louisiana in the 1930s and ’40s. As a boy, he made his own two-stringed guitar and taught himself to play in his free time. When he was 21, he moved up to Chicago and caught a break with one of his idols at the time, Muddy Waters.

During the concert, Guy listed off a number of his other musical influences in the form of song snippets. He played tunes from John Lee Hooker, Marvin Gaye and Ray Charles, to name a few — all the time testing the crowd’s blues knowledge. He insisted that everything he learned throughout his career was based on these greats and that he emulated their legacies.

At the end of the set, Guy received an overwhelming standing ovation that lasted several minutes. Members of the audience shouted for an encore, but Guy had already made his exit. Regardless, he left his impression on all the fans who flocked to ELLNORA on Friday night.

It’s clear that when Guy is onstage, his good-humored personality is potent. He’s a lifelong entertainer, and it shows. He puts passion and soul into his blues tunes, and those are what made him the living legend that he is today.

Reema is a junior in FAA. She can be reached at [email protected]