June 2007 Archives

Red Rocks Review

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By John Wenzel
Denver Post Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 06/20/2007 01:39:19 PM MDT


The beauty of Red Rocks Amphitheatre is the way it stirs both audience and performer, encouraging extended solos, wild dancing and gleeful interaction between the stage and crowd.

Buddy Guy clearly felt the venue's energy Tuesday night, playing a lengthy set that wavered between inspired and rambling. Of course, it was an endearing sort of rambling, as the Chicago blues legend fashioned medleys from artists he has helped inspire (Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix) and standards from the blues canon (mentor Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf).

Guy looked ready for a Hawaiian cruise in a blue floral shirt, straw hat and crisp white pants, strolling leisurely through the higher rows of the venue and imploring his five-piece band to "play it so funky you can smell it." His solos hit like lightning bolts, unpredictable and lacerating with thunder in their wake.

Of course, when he played guitar with his teeth or the occasional drum stick (as he's wont to do), it sounded more like Marty McFly's ill-timed solo at the end of "Back to the Future" or Hendrix at his most explosive and skull-splitting. More than a few people could be seen covering their ears throughout the venue.

Even as the adoring crowd and natural beauty of Red Rocks buoyed Guy, he toyed with the crowd's attention and pushed back headliner George Thorogood later than most. He meant it when he said, "I could play all night," because he nearly did.

By late Tuesday, Thorogood was barely halfway through his set, the crowd's vigor remaining strong for his sharp, toe-tapping blues-rock. But after Guy's set, the shiny saxophone work and by-the-numbers solos of Thorogood's Destroyers felt a bit polished and predictable, even as they maintained the rabid energy Guy had built.

Thorogood reigns over classic rock radio with songs like "Bad to the Bone" and "Who Do You Love" (which were played note-perfect), and it's doubtful the majority of the crowd was looking for surprises. Still, both Thorogood, 57, and Guy, 70, proved they can make as much roiling noise as musicians one-third their age, and do it convincingly.