Buddy Guy’s ‘Damn Right Farewell Tour’ stops in Iowa City at Hancher

At the age of 86, iconic blues musician Buddy Guy played at Iowa City’s Hancher Auditorium on Friday night as a part of his “Damn Right Farewell Tour.”


Contributed photo from Hancher Auditorium.

Charlie Hickman, Arts Reporter

Blues icon Buddy Guy, 86, is winding down his legendary music career. The famed guitarist and singer stopped at Iowa City’s Hancher Auditorium as a part of his “Damn Right Farewell” tour on Friday.

Buddy Guy’s most recent album, of which he performed several songs, was nominated for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year at the 2023 Grammys. But the tour isn’t just to show off his Grammy-nominated album.

“Buddy Guy embodies an important era in American history,” Aaron Greenwald, Hancher’s director of programming and engagement, said.

At his performance Friday night, Buddy Guy took the audience through the rich history he has been instrumental in shepherding, with songs spanning from his early career to his most recent releases.

He shared stories from his childhood growing up on the bayous of Louisiana, sang a heartfelt song dedicated to his mother, and remembered fellow blues legends like Muddy Waters who helped him sculpt the blues landscape.

“Buddy Guy is a real showman. He’s not just playing a concert, he’s keeping the audience entertained,” Greenwald said.

Entertainment was a primary goal of Buddy Guy’s performance; between songs, he would call out to the audience, playing his guitar against his chest, or even lay the guitar flat and play it by hitting the strings with a towel.

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Guy’s songs evoke a classic blues feeling that only the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musicians perform.

“Buddy Guy was there when the Chicago Blues was invented,” Greenwald said, emphasizing Guy’s history in the genre.

Intermixed with Guy’s classic hits were his bass guitarist Orlando Wright, backup guitarist Cornelius Hall, and keys player Daniel Souvigny, who were given a spotlight to solo and bridge the different segments of the performance.

Opening for Buddy Guy was his accompanying drummer Tom Hambridge, who shared his own blues origin story. Much like other guitarists and blues artists, Hambridge was heavily inspired by Buddy Guy’s early work, and noted that the legend influenced the likes of John Mayer and Derek Trucks.

“They’re popular in the genre now but they would be the first to admit they don’t just emerge, they come out of a tradition of music,” Greenwald explained. “If you’re interested in American music, Buddy Guy is a massive part of that.”

Toward the end of his set, Buddy Guy introduced his son Gregory Guy, who joined the backup guitarists for the last few songs. Father and son took center stage to riff together in the most theatrical moment of the performance.

Performing with his son was another reminder of the rich history and legacy not only of the blues as a genre but of Buddy Guy’s own impact on music culture.

The audience was full of people of all ages, something Greenwald thought was an important aspect of Guy’s performances. Friday night’s show never lost momentum, and the songs and stories continued until the very end as his son and backup musicians played Buddy Guy off.

“It’s important to know where things come from. To experience culture in isolation — you miss the context that makes it,” Greenwald said. “It’s really an honor to have him perform here.”