For Susan Tedeschi and Buddy Guy, the party never stops. Only days after their performance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, the duo hit up another Chicago suburb to keep the six-stringed good times raging at Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival.
Tedeschi, the opening act, could have easily held the hot, sticky crowd’s attention with her soulful voice. Instead, she paired it with similarly impressive guitar solos, making her dualistic talent near mind-boggling. Borrowing husband Derek Trucks’ band for the night, the group garnered increasing amounts of standing ovations between songs as the set progressed. Playing a handful of tracks off her newest album Hope and Desire (Verve) – including “Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever” by Stevie Wonder, and Bob Dylan’s “Lord, Protect My Child” – it was Tedeschi’s personal tunes, specifically the man-caught-cheating “Evidence,” that fit her trademark bluesy melismas best.
From the second Buddy Guy starts playing, you know you’re in for a treat, and his follow-up to Tedeschi’s set was no exception. With a quick-handed keyboardist playing as smoothly as Guy’s on-stage sips from an espresso mug, Guy kicked off the show with “Hoochie Coochie Man,” the first of the night’s few Muddy Waters tunes. Performing with a bit more energy at Ravinia than at Crossroads, Guy’s highlights included a tease of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom Boom Boom,” poking fun at Clapton’s molasses-like playing speed on “Strange Brew,” and a “Feels Like Rain” duet with Susan Tedeschi, who joked that her husband probably wouldn’t mind if the two got together.
Guy’s performance transcended music – he’s more of an entertainer than a guitarist, though the combination simultaneously enhances both aspects of his persona, instead of one taking away from the other. Playing at times with his teeth, one hand and even the pants of his black jumpsuit, Guy had the crowd laughing, cheering and hollering, but only when he wanted it. Shush-ing the audience at times and repeatedly commenting on how good he felt playing to the loud crowd at others, the funniest interjection came when Guy, whose storytelling was interrupted by a shout, scolded, “Would you shut the fuck up?!”
He wasn’t coldhearted to the fans, though. Sauntering up the aisles twice, Guy went outside the pavilion into the venue’s general admission lawn section first and later interacted with a little girl who adorably shuffled towards him, repeating, “I love you Buddy Guy!” which only echoed the sentiments of the highly enthused audience.