Blues colored Red Rocks on Aug. 28 as three guitar heroes performed: the prodigy Quinn Sullivan (age 14), middle-aged George Thorogood, celebrating 40 years of performing and the senior Buddy Guy, 77 years young. These three musicians, spanning a few generations and playing to a largely middle aged crowd, demonstrated the history of rock and its blues influence.
“I want to play something so funky you can smell it,” Guy said taking the stage in his dashing, signature polka dots.
With his quintessential blues voice and multiple Grammys, Guy is a standard-bearer. His guitar antics included playing with a drumstick as a pick or a capo and strumming using only his handkerchief or his chest or the seat of his pants.
“Y’all are going to have to stop me tonight,” he said.
On top of his electric acrobatics, Guy played acoustic guitar while regaling the crowd with his tale of getting started in Chicago. He then invited opener Quinn Sullivan, his protégée, back on the stage. Barely a teenager, Sullivan blistered renditions of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. The old blues man and the young traded guitar licks and high kicks.
Then came Thorogood, who opened with “Rock Party.” He thanked loyal Colorado fans, noting his history at the Little Bear in Evergreen, and the Paramount Theater in downtown Denver. He proclaimed Red Rocks “the best venue in the world.”
But even an artist as established as Thorogood isn’t without fail, “When I woke up this morning, nobody had to tell me what venue I was playing tonight: Red Rocks, Californ –,” he said. Maybe he was joking, maybe it was an honest mistake, either way, we can forgive you, George. And to his credit, he later apologized.
Some of Thorogood’s show is schtick, almost verbatim from his live album, yet he’s still doing 360 degree turns with his guitar as he performed his hits: “Who Do You Love?” and “Move It On Over.” Dressed in black, Thorogood still stands as a rocking antihero singing irreverent songs: “Get a Haircut,” “I Drink Alone” and “Bad to the Bone.”
As Thorogood flashed the peace sign, the “Star-Spangled Banner” piped into the amphitheater sound system, marking an end to the night.
Colleen Smith, a longtime contributor to The Denver Post, is the author of the acclaimed novel “Glass Halo” and the gift book “Laid-Back Skier” by Friday Jones Publishing.
Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.