When I saw Buddy Guy at a Harrisburg, PA gig last year, I had only one regret. There wasn't a good live CD to take home as a souvenir of the magic we all experienced that night. A year later, while it has its moments, Guy's new Live at Legends still isn't the concert album I craved.
For one important matter, Live at Legends is a rather short live set on an album beefed up by three studio tracks. True, Live at Legends is a slice of blues history as it draws from his last performances at his now defunct Legends Club recorded in Chicago in January 2010. But, while not the first concert recorded at Legends (Last Time Around--Live at Legends, with Guy and Junior Welles, came out in 1998), this set seems almost amateurish in its production.
This isn't a criticism of the playing by Guy or his stellar backup band. Rather, the engineering is simply sloppy. This is most noticeable in the quiet sections where Guy's vocals virtually disappear. Perhaps this is the reason only a few numbers were officially released as others couldn't be salvaged?
Still, Buddy Guy remains a giant icon bridging, as he chronicles in his "Who's Going to Fill Those Shoes?", the post-World War II Chicago Chess sessions through the blues renaissance of the '60s through the Texas wizardry of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Sadly, that 2008 song isn't on this release, but the range of influences and styles Guy is master of are all demonstrated to one degree or another.
Live at Legends opens with two warm-up numbers apparently from different nights as the guitar sound isn't dynamically the same or in the same speakers. "Best Damn Fool" has Buddy hot on the left side, the workmanlike "Mannish Boy" has him toned down on the right. His nod to Muddy Waters continues with a fine rendition of "I Just Want To Make Love To You," where Guy begins to have fun with the audience by admitting he's likely to make up his own words. This is a nightclub after all, so the monologues are sometimes salty and the ambiance is intimate and close.