By guest writer Keith Block;  The future and the past collided this week (Sept 2023) at the Hollywood Bowl when Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – often hailed as the future of blues – opened for blues living legend Buddy Guy. Guy who turned 87 earlier this year, brought his “Damn Right Farewell Tour” to the iconic venue. The tour marks an end to Buddy Guy’s six-decade plus heavy routine touring schedule.

“KingFish” Buddy Guy

It is completely appropriate and in character that Guy is not just honoring his mentors (i.e., Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimmy Reed) on his farewell tour, but he is using it to advance the careers of younger blues artists such as Kingfish. As Guy explained, “It’s time to give this younger generation of people room to come up and get the chance I had.”

KingFish Buddy Guy

Opening act Christone “Kingfish” Ingram tearing it up at the Bowl; photo by Richard Bilow

Guy could not have made a better choice to lead the blues, as Kingfish demonstrated during his electrifying opening set at the Bowl. Wearing all white and playing a purple and black Fender, Kingfish kicked off his set with a blistering take on “She Calls Me Kingfish” from his latest album 662. The release, which borrows its title from the artist’s native Clarksdale area code, won the Grammy Award for best contemporary blues album last year. While Kingfish was certainly the star, he was anchored by an excellent band consisting of Deshawn D’Vibes Alexander on keyboards, Paul Rogers on bass and Chris Black on drums.

After a blazing version of “Empty Promises,” Kingfish addressed the crowd and said, I want to apologize for all those notes I played. My bad.” The awestruck crowd cheered loudly. Throughout his set, Ingram’s voice was captivating, and his guitar work was simply out of this world – making every note matter and performing each song with conviction. Ingram put on a show which lived up to all the hype of being called the future of the blues.

Kingfish Buddy Guy

Consummate entertainer Buddy Guy shares a story with the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl; photo by Richard Bilow

Buddy Guy

Following Kingfish might be a problem for lesser artists, but Buddy Guy is a genuine American treasure. He’s the last of a generation of innovative musicians that amplified the blues, creating an authentic, raw, urban sound. That sound captured the attention of the world and changed the face of rock ’n’ roll, R&B and hip-hop. Guy has been rightfully added to the pantheon of blues greats and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 by B.B. King and Eric Clapton.

With decades of material, Guy has a deep catalog of emotionally charged, real-world lyrics and lessons to draw from for his “Damn Right Farewell Tour.” He could have easily played nothing but originals. Instead he performed mostly covers. He obviously did this to honor his bygone peers and to recognizing the rock icons who helped propel his career.

Guy’s rhythm guitarist Ric Hall aka “Rick Jaz” is one of the best musicians to come out of Chicago; photo by Richard Bilow

“Damn Right Farewell Tour”

Guy kicked off his set with “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” and played a cream colored 1989 Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster. What followed was a history lesson on blues and rock music. Backed by his brilliant bandmates Tom Hambridge (drums), Ric Hall (guitar), Orlando Wright (bass) and Dan Souvigny (keyboards), Buddy shared classics which included Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Just Want to Make Love To You” by Willie Dixon, Bill Withers’ “Grits Ain’t Groceries,” Al Green’s “Take Me To The River,” Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” “How Blue Can You Get” by B.B. King, and “Drowning on Dry Land” by Albert King.

Guy’s banter throughout the two-hour show was a pleasing mix of humor and personal reflections, told with comedic precision. The stage was sparse except for a neon backdrop reminiscent of 1950s Chicago. This backdrop, coupled with the Bowl’s unmistakable signature shell and colorful illumination, created a perfect scene for the blues and a perfect setup for the most poignant moment of the night. During his performance of “Skin Deep,” Guy told a story about his mother, “I think I’m good looking,” he recalled. “She never skipped a beat. She said, ‘That’s only skin deep, never forget that.” The song has a personal and timely message of kindness and acceptance.

Kingfish Buddy Guy

Kingfish and Ric Hall sharing licks during the jam finale; photo by Richard Bilow

KingFish Buddy Guy, Jam Band Finale 

To close the show Guy invite his son Greg, Kingfish and Jimmie Vaughn on stage for the jam band finale. The guitar masters played fiery versions of Muddy Waters “Close to You” and Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” They all traded licks with Guy and Ric Hall. Then Buddy walked the stage, acknowledging the audience, and left behind a blues guitar lovers’ dream jam. Kingfish was smiling ear-to-ear, enjoying every note, as they each took their turn for about 10 minutes, capping off an amazing show. Buddy Guy wants to leave the road while he is still a consummate entertainer, and he certainly achieved his goal. The blues will miss him, but his legacy will live forever.

CLICK HERE to read other reviews at the Hollywood Bowl. And visit the website for an upcoming list of legends performing at The Bowl – https://www.hollywoodbowl.com/

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