At this point in his career, Buddy Guy is probably beyond criticism. His tormented, emotional early sides (the epic “First Time I Met the Blues,” et al) stand as masterpieces of the Chicago genre, and if his flamboyant stage act and latter-day tendency to explode into self-indulgent flights of technique at the expense of musicianship have tended to obscure the more subtle aspects of his talent, there’s no denying a still-fertile imagination at work beneath the flash and superficial brilliance. Breathtaking one minute and deliriously overplayed the next, Buddy’s style remains the intensely personal statement of one of the major pathfinders in American music, a man Jimi Hendrix–among many others–considered an idol. Every now and then Buddy will cool things down and play a blues ballad–“As the Years Go Passing By” or something similar–revealing a sensitivity and a deep-souled tenderness unsurpassed by any other guitarist still playing. Sublime moments like these, as well as the awe-inspiring displays of technical mastery he fires off apparently at will, ensure his position among the highest in the pantheon of Chicago blues greats. Tonight, Biddy Mulligan’s, 7644 N. Sheridan; 761-6532. Saturday, B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont; 525-8989.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.