Buddy Guy at the Birchmere
Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 10:39AM
Stephen Brookes

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • March 28, 2008

                                                                 By  Barry Brecheisen
It would be tough – maybe even impossible --  to find a more influential blues guitarist than Buddy Guy. Smart, fast and spectacularly innovative, he was one of the first to bridge the gap between blues and rock, inspiring everyone from Eric Clapton to Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughan. He never achieved the fame of the superstars who learned from him, earning instead that bittersweet title of "musician's musician." But as he showed in a sold-out, freewheeling powerhouse of a show at the Birchmere on Wednesday, Guy may still -- at 71 -- be the most interesting blues player on the planet.

And one of the most entertaining, too. Backed by his four-piece band, Guy roamed the stage throughout the set, doing songs from his most recent disc ("I've Got Dreams to Remember," "Somebody's Sleeping in My Bed") and channeling blues greats from Willie Dixon ("I Just Want to Make Love to You") to Junior Wells ("Little by Little"). There was a little Hendrix, a little Albert King, even a gentle sendup of Clapton doing "Strange Brew."

And it was all riveting. Guy's playing is virtuosic and amazingly alive, shifting from delicate whispers to brain-searing ferocity with barely time to blink. The whole set was so fluid it felt like a free-flowing stream of consciousness; he'd impulsively stop the band to tell a story, take a little nourishment from a coffee mug at the back of the stage, or pass lines back and forth with pianist Marty Sammon.

"We don't rehearse this stuff," he told the crowd. "If we did, we'd just [mess] it up."

Guy's showmanship was just as engaging as his playing -- the high point of the evening may have come when he descended into the packed crowd, getting women in the audience to pluck his wireless guitar for him. He urged one to sing the line "I'm going to rock you all night long."

"I can't!" wailed the embarrassed victim. "That's all right," deadpanned Guy, after a deftly timed pause. "I can't either."

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