Live Performance Review

Blues in the Palace:

Buddy Guy, Lonnie Brooks & KoKo Taylor

By Michael Campbell

"lf you like the blues, you in the right house tonight.' — Buddy Guy, September 13, 1995.

It may have been Friday, the thirteenth, but if you were among those at the Palace Theatre for this performance, your luck could not improve. Buddy Guy whispered, screamed, shredded and mended the blues, offering a clinic on the optimal use of dynamics in performance.

From the opening "All Your Love," he cranked the intensity meter past ten and kept it there by bringing both guitar and voice down to a level that required the audience to strain to hear, followed by a thunderous punctuation as he cranked up the volume to deliver the punch line.

The blues is, after all, a medium for storytelling. Guy learned at the feet of the master (Muddy Waters) and shared that lesson well in Muddy's "Hoochie Coochie Man." Buddy continued the lesson by teasing the crowd with only a few bars of Hendrix's "Voodoo Child," Stevie Ray's arrangement of "Pride & Joy," and Clapton's "Strange Brew" from the Cream days, only to demonstrate that he could "play this kind of stuff too."

The evening's finale included Lonnie Brooks and his son, Ronnie Brooks, trading leads and vocals on "Slippin' In" in a thoroughly satisfying performance.

Lonnie Brooks, the leading practitioner of genuine house rockin' music, opened the show, providing relief from blues cliche with his lyrical guitar lines. Fronting a young, energetic band, Brooks wowed the crowd with his tight R&B-flavored vocals and arrangements and even some pyrotechnical tongue guitar playing. His performance of his own classic "Goin' Back to Louisiana" was delivered with both funk and urgency.

Chicago's Queen of the Blues, KoKo Taylor, had the tough job of following Lonnie's band and frankly suffered in the comparison. Hampered somewhat by being buried in the mix, she rasped through game renditions of "I'll Rain On Your Parade," "Hound Dog," and her hit remake of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle," supported by competent, if uninspired, sidemen.

For blues fans this night, it was a lucky triple header.