Summerfest Day 10-11: Buddy Guy and Jimmy Eat World
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Rhythm & Blues, the aptly titled new album from Buddy Guy, hits stores July 30, which just so happens to also be the legendary Chicago blues pioneer’s 77th birthday. But the album is simply the latest milestones in a remarkable life and career. As house guitarist at the iconic Chess Records, Guy’s raucous, noisy style graced sides from everyone from Howlin’ Wolf to Little Walter and Muddy Waters, and left a massive, indelible imprint on generations of much worshiped guitar gods, beginning with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. As of the moment, the blues may not be as vital a genre as it once was; compared to the company Guy used to keep, Rhythm & Blues guests Keith Urban and Kid Rock don’t exactly stack up, but even now, Buddy Guy is as lively, and as raunchy, a performer as ever.
“You all are gonna fuck around and make me play all night,” Guy joked, basking in the adoration of a sizable but loose-knit crowd at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse on what ended up being a relatively subdued Saturday night at Summerfest. The audience was diverse but consistently enthusiastic, and Guy seemed determined to get the party started; between his colorful banter and a set that leaned as much towards distorted riffs as toward tradition, he didn’t make it look difficult. Often introducing whatever song was next as some “shit so funky you can smell it,” Guy sprinkled the first half of his set with a healthy dose of his more recent recordings, with 1994’s “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In (Slippin’ Out, Slippin’ In)” and the defiant “Let The Doorknob Hit Ya” from 2010’s Living Proof standing out as hard-rocking evidence that he’s still got it.
Most of the latter half of the show was a guided tour through the development of the blues, in which Guy dipped into the songbooks of artists who influenced him, including John Lee Hooker and Ray Charles, and the musicians he influenced in turn, like Hendrix and Cream. Occasionally this little history lesson meant breaking out an acoustic guitar, which was nice, but ended up getting occasionally drowned out by the other bands, particularly 311, who were comin’ original one stage over at the Miller Lite Oasis. Mostly though, Guy concentrated on heavier jams showing off his signature shredding style which, being an ebullient, flamboyant performer, he demonstrated every way possible: behind his back, over his head, with his teeth, and even with his ass at one point. It was blues the way it was meant to be: raw, risqué, and a hell of a lot of fun. [Thomas Michalski]
Jimmy Eat World will, perhaps unfairly, forever be historically associated with the September 11 attacks. The band’s fourth studio album, 2001’s breakthrough Bleed American, was reissued by Geffen as a self-titled effort (which ridiculously marked the third self-titled release in the group’s catalog) during a time when American media companies were tailoring their products as to not offend consumers. The title revision probably didn’t really affect anything. What did alter the band’s trajectory would be its second single, “The Middle.”
“Everything will be just fine / Everything will be alright,” sings amicable frontman Jim Adkins on that track, which sounds catchy enough to capture radio play during any era, but got heavily pushed for its reassuring rallying cry in such a gloomy time. Jimmy Eat World closed its hour-and-a-half performance with “The Middle” Sunday night at the BMO Harris Pavilion, though this time around, it sounded much less like reassurance than it did blissful celebration.
Much of the band’s set felt the same way. Jimmy Eat World sticks to an achingly formulaic style—muted verse, big chorus, muted verse, big chorus, big bridge, big ending—but what the group lacks in songwriting abilities, it more than makes up in enthusiasm. All its Bleed American material soared to anthemic heights (and even some of its latter, normally anemic, work). Pop punk might be a genre littered with white, privileged, suburban teenage angst, yet Jimmy Eat World transcends those elements. How can you hate a band that’s so genuinely willing to give everyone a good time?
It’s a hokey tradition in pop punk to “punk” a current pop song, and Jimmy Eat World followed suit covering Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” When the song reached the chorus, the focus laid not on Adkins’ vocals but the band’s huge, sludgy guitars. The cover somehow worked, inherently feeling like something culled from the band’s own vault.
The two standouts were the consecutively played songs from the band’s commercial-failure-turned-essential-second-generation-emo-masterpiece Clarity. Drummer Zach Lind’s excellent frenetic drums scored the contemptuous “Lucky Denver Mint.” And “Goodbye Sky Harbor” concluded with Adkins and fellow guitar-playing Tom Linton concurrently plucking notes that slowly fade away before returning with an absolute barrage of sound. In a performance filled with countless hooks, it was the most jarring and intense moment of the night. [Kevin Mueller]