I did it. After 25 years of living in Albany, I finally made it up to SPAC to take in some of the Freihofer’s Jazz Fest this weekend. Wow! So, that’s what it’s like to be treated like an adult at an event at SPAC. Bravo!
I promise this isn’t going to be an anti-Live Nation rant, but, I have to acknowledge how much more pleasant an experience this concert was than the typical rock show at SPAC. I mean, for Pete’s sake, they were giving away cookies. When was the last time Live Nation gave you anything other than a firm pat down? The bottled water was literally half the price we paid a week prior at the Tom Petty show and the beers were similarly discounted. I think premium drafts were $6.50.
We were freely allowed to bring in snacks and beverages of our own choosing and cameras were also permitted without the ridiculous stipulation a la Live Nation, that those with removable lenses are not allowed. I left my Nikon at home, fearing rain, but took about a million mental pictures of the beautifully diverse crowd doing their thing with tarps, blankets, martini glasses and elaborate food preparations.
We drove through a deluge in Albany to arrive at a miraculously and vaguely sunny venue . Apparently Saratoga had a mere drizzle and we guaranteed that things would remain dry by remembering to bring our umbrellas through the Charlie gate. We snagged a spot on the lawn, enjoying the sounds of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and relaxing into the peaceful Sunday afternoon vibe.
The legendary Tony Bennett, at the ripe old age of 86(!), put on an unforgettably lovely show. Seeing him was a once in a lifetime opportunity and he impressed me with the strength of voice, his physical appearance and the tremendous class he exuded. They don’t make them like that anymore! It was a true thrill to be in the audience while he performed.
Buddy Guy closed the show in a downpour of soulful blues and thunderous guitar licks. Holy crap – that man is 76 years-old and he smoked it. There was no calling it in – he simply killed it. The songs he chose to play highlighted the family tree of guitar players with which any modern music lover is familiar – Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, each of whom made virtual appearances on the stage.
Among all the veteran musicians playing, there was also a beacon of the future present. Fourteen-year-old Quinn Sullivan, of New Bedford, MA, ripped it up playing along side of the masterful Guy. His playing reminded me of Clapton, but his stage presence was all Derek Trucks. The future looks bright.
The biggest thrill of the night for me was when the remarkably nimble Buddy Guy came down into the audience and I anticipated where he would ultimately end up – right in front of me. Like, I could have touched him if I was one of those people who invades the personal space of someone. I was giddy. Great show, great company, great night.