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POP MUSIC REVIEW : 'Blues Summit '93' at the Greek Theatre Has Few Peaks

September 11, 1993|DON SNOWDEN

The "Blues Summit '93" bill headlined by B.B. King and Buddy Guy at the Greek Theatre on Thursday showed how much the blues has been redefined as guitar virtuosity. To paraphrase an old Little Walter lyric, "Blues with a feeling / Wasn't much on display" during the five-hour performance.

King sat down for the second half of his 75-minute set--luckily, because then he was finally able to play with the subtlety and feeling absent from the first part. His singing hasn't lost any of its blues power nor his guitar, Lucille, the ability to play it ever so soft and salty sweet . . . when it wasn't battling slick show-biz trappings.

Guitarist Ali Farka Toure from Mali, with guest Ry Cooder joining Toure's trio, played two songs in 15 minutes before maybe 10% of an ultimately full house. That's a shame; a later set would have introduced a different dimension to the blues tradition for more of the audience.

Buddy Guy's new popularity hasn't changed his bad stage habit of hamming it up more than playing music. "Sweet Home Chicago," "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Knock On Wood," "Mustang Sally" snippets of "Sunshine of Your Love" and "Voodoo Chile"--does this set sound like a classic rocker's idea of the blues/soul hit-list or what?

With his roots in the real Chicago deal and flair for dealing with its rock branches, Guy has the potential to turn his new fans onto an unusually broad range of blues. But he'll have to stop pandering to an adoring, uncritical audience that blindly accepts anything that calls itself blues.

Ali Farka Toure appears at the San Diego Street Scene today. Gregg Allman will join the "Blues Summit '93" lineup, which also features the Alligator All-Stars and Eric Johnson, at Irvine Meadows tonight.

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