Buddy Guy - Timeless Magic at Music in the Zoo
SPECIAL GUEST: QUINN SULLIVAN
VENUE: MUSIC IN THE ZOO / WEESNER FAMILY AMPHITHEATER
JUNE 28, 2018
Review written by: Caleb Baumgartner
Photo by: Patrick Dunn
Arguably the core of Chicago Blues is its ability to establish a comfortable pattern and explode out from this pattern in a flash, allowing the performer to draw both band and audience into a story, then giving that performer an opportunity to transcend the moment and express himself as a confident individual. Chicago Blues is a beautiful synthesis between rote and pattern and chaotic energy, toying with the familiar yet making it feel vibrant, new, and alive at every turn. These concepts were on display beautifully with the stylings of Buddy Guy and opening act Quinn Sullivan, who together delighted a packed house at Music in the Zoo.
Opening performer Quinn Sullivan, an 8 year veteran of the blues scene at the tender age of 19, was the perfect individual to set the tone for the evening. A beautiful example of the aforementioned characteristics of this style of music, Sullivan navigated expertly between the common rhythms of this genre and his own powerful solos, wonderfully blending the communal experience of those familiar blues rhythms with the raucous and infectious energy of his showboating solos. The crowd was brought to their feet again and again at the end of his blazing guitar work, giving him tremendous credit for his skills and presence.
After a decent intermission which allowed Sullivan ample time to interact with fans at the merch table, the main event was to arrive. Though up in the years, Buddy Guy carried with him to the stage the presence of a much younger man. Spry, clever, witty, energetic and talented, Buddy Guy showed what a masterful blues artist truly looks like. Part storyteller, part comedian, part performance artist, Buddy Guy was more one-man-variety-show than musician, and he showed a deft understanding of what it means to work a crowd. While Quinn Sullivan’s act was defined by his youthful vigor, Buddy Guy’s was defined by the wisdom of age and his decades as a performer. In Guy you saw a man in his element, who spoke to a crowd in a way that felt as though he talked to each of them as an individual. He had a masterful understanding of using volume as a storytelling tool, performing quietly, softly, sometimes so low that one had to strain to hear, just as often as he would belt out and riff with an unbelievable energy.
Buddy Guy radiated love and enthusiasm from the stage, glowing with an internal energy that radiated out to touch the crowd and bind them in something unifying, something beautiful. These are songs and solos that Buddy Guy has heard and performed numerous times in his legendary career, but every note felt as fresh and as new as the first moment it was played. The feeling of being in the presence of something special was constant while Buddy Guy was on the stage, a lingering sensation that you’re in the presence of a lost generation of real performers, a generation who played with love and heart, who felt everything they played and believed every story they spun, no matter how ridiculous.
Buddy Guy’s performance at the Minnesota Zoo's Weesner Family Amphitheater was a singularly wonderful evening, a moment in time well worth being part of. The evening was an affirmation of timeless human concepts, captured in a style of music which is not bound to any era but is equally as timeless as the concepts it explores. It honored the history of the genre, showing love and respect to those who came before, while giving all of us in the audience an assurance that the genre is alive and well and in good hands with another generation.