If blues guitar is your thing, then the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts was the place to be Saturday night.
Two generations of guitar slingers — the legendary Buddy Guy and one-time wonder kid Jonny Lang — co-headlined a blues summit for a large and rowdy crowd at the Wilkes-Barre theater.
Guy, now 76 and one of the last of the Chicago blues pioneers, took the stage to a standing ovation and unleashed a two-minute barrage of guitar pyrotechnics as an introduction to his theme song, “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues.”
All decked out in a long-sleeved patriotic shirt and white pants, the six-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer then paid tribute to his one-time boss, Muddy Waters, with “Champagne and Reefer” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”
From the moment he stepped on the stage, Guy owned it, showing everyone in attendance why he was named to Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and why he has been an inspiration to performers from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughn and just about anyone else who ever picked up a Fender Stratocaster.
“They just told me before I came out here that I don’t have a curfew tonight,” Guy said after his second number. “I’m going to wear you out.
“I know you don’t get this kind of thing all the time,” he continued. “So I got to let you know, we here.” Lang, who started playing guitar at the age of 12 and released his first album just two years later, opened the show with “Don’t Stop (for Anything),” unleashing his own style of guitar magic on his Gibson Les Paul.
Lang, now in his 30s and a veteran of the road for more than 15 years, hit his stride early in his set as his second song of the evening was a veritable tour de force as were his versions of “Red Light” and Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City.” He capped his one-hour-and-15-minute set with a sizzling spiritual number, “That Great Day,” a standout from his latest studio album, 2006’s “Turn Around.”
Later in his set, Guy played two songs from his latest studio album, 2010’s Grammy-winning “Living Proof,” including a humorous slice of autobiography called “74 Years Young.”
“I cut that two years ago,” Guy said as he updated the final verses to “76 Years Young.” He then proudly proclaimed, “All blues music is not sad. I’m going to show you that in a minute.”
Guy then wowed the crowd by going up and down the aisles playing and singing his next number as hundreds of cell phone cameras recorded the moment for later internet dissemination.
After explaining to the crowd how he first went to Chicago more than 50 years ago and came up against some resistance having to prove to everyone how well he could play, he then brought out the next generation of virtuoso blues guitarists, 13-year-old Quinn Sullivan, who earned multiple standing ovations as he played like Clapton on “Strange Brew” and like Hendrix on “Voodoo Chile.”
“I first met him when he was seven,” Guy said of Sullivan. “And he’s just like whiskey.” With Sullivan still on the stage, Guy then reclaimed the spotlight and brought the magnificent evening of blues music and guitar virtuosity to a close, stopping to pass out dozens of guitar picks to the crowd, and made his exit to yet another extended standing ovation.