Written by Jim Bille
Jun 22, 2012 at 08:00 PM
ImageThe Arena Theater hosted a blues powerhouse duo recently that featured two of the best guitar players in the business today. Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang hit the rotating stage at this Houston landmark theater and kept the crowd musically drenched with one of the best blues shows to hit the Bayou City in a long time.

Jonny Lang opened the show with all of his dominant and searing guitar virtuosity in full force. You can always count on Lang to deliver an incredible show and he did not disappoint the sizable crowd on this night.

Lang had just come through the Arena a couple of months ago touring with Experience Hendrix and made it point to say he was glad to be back in town playing this great venue.

As mentioned you can depend on Lang to give it his all and he did just that with numbers like the Tinsley Ellis penned, “A Quitter Never Wins”.

Lang being “born again” a few years back now incorporates a few semi-Christian numbers in his act. An exceptional example of one of these numbers was called “Angel of Mercy” which he played with genuine fervor and soul.

Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ for City” has become a Jonny Lang favorite as I believe I’ve heard this classic each time I’ve seen him. As always, this number had the fans dancing in the aisles.

Probably the best known Lang song was the final one of the set. “Lie to Me”, from the 1997 release of the same name, was featured with a new treatment. Lang started the song out nice and easy on a slowly played acoustic guitar eventually switching off for his electric to finish it up loud and sweaty.

ImageWith over 50 years of performing under his belt Buddy Guy can still tow the line when it comes to guitar work. He remains on top of his game and shows no indication of slowing down.

Backed by his long time road band that features Tim Austin on drums, Marty Sammon on keyboards, Orlando Wright on bass and Ric Hall on guitar, Guy took command of the Arena Theater for another great performance.

From his latest release “Living Proof”, Guy featured an autobiographical number called “74 Years Young” that seemed to encapsulate his long career. My favorite line from the song was “I’ve been all around the world, everywhere is home; drank wine with kings and the Rolling Stones”. I believe him.

“Someone Else is Steppin In” was one of those cheatin’ on ya songs that always fit right in with having the blues and Buddy Guy’s version made you want to fight somebody.

Recorded by many but mastered by a few, the standard “Fever” was also featured by Guy during his set. Buddy’s version is one of the best, incorporating sorrowful guitar work as well as soulful vocals Guy really shined on this number.

Early on Buddy Guy had promised the audience to something they had never seen or heard before. Everyone in attendance was expecting to see a Jonny Lang – Buddy Guy combo set but instead Guy introduced 13 year old guitar prodigy, Quinn Sullivan to the stage. The audience, not knowing what to expect, waited for Sullivan to plug in and what followed was amazing to say the least.

ImageSullivan’s playing ability is well beyond veteran status. He kept up with and even exceeded Guy’s performance on occasion while the two swapped out some incredible music.

Sullivan would be featured heavily for the rest of the show with Guy mostly taking a back seat and relegating himself to playing rhythm guitar and vocals.

An acoustic version of “Rock Me Baby” featuring Sullivan, Hall, and Guy was especially interesting with all three trading guitar licks throughout the song.

Back on electric, young Sullivan was only too happy to accommodate the crowd with snippets of guitar classics such as “Strange Brew” and “Voodoo Chile” while Guy smiled on the sidelines.

The Ray Charles classic “What I Say” and “Feels Like Rain” were also featured towards the end of the show with Sullivan taking the lead.

Without a doubt Quinn Sullivan stole this show from Guy and Lang. Once he got rolling the crowd would give standing ovations for each song. Keep an eye out for this young man in the future. He will be one of the next great blues torch bearers for sure!