Chicago blues legend Lonnie Brooks, 78, and his son Ronnie Baker Brooks performed a rousing "Sweet Home Chicago," and 74-year-old Eddie Shaw animatedly sang and played sax on "Sitting on Top of the World." Soon, Costello surprised the crowd when he appeared unannounced in a grey, checkered suit, to jam on an instrumental boogie and sing "Hidden Charms." Later, Warren Haynes nailed Wolf’s boogie "You’ll Be Mine" and invited Billy Gibbons to add some Texas twang to "Killing Floor."
During set two, Keb Mo and and Shaw performed a slinky "Howling for My Baby;" Doyle Bramhall II led the band in a stellar "Commit a Crime" and Robert Randolph played a blissful "Who Do You Love?" with ferocious pedal steel playing, dancing out of his chair to the Bo Diddley beat. Derek Trucks backed wife Susan Tedeschi on "How Many More Years" and "Three Hundred Pounds of Joy." Between Trucks' scorching slide solos, Tedeschi managed to pull off lines like "Honey / I’m your boy / 300 pounds / of heavenly joy."
Buddy Guy brought the night to a new peak with a raucous, bravado-filled set that included "I’m Going Down" with Randolph, Guy stabbing and holding volume-shifting notes while he gestured to the crowd like he was passing out money. During a stomping "Hoochie Coochie Man," he belted a verse away from the microphone, telling the band to "play it so funky you can smell it."
27-year-old newcomer Gary Clark Jr., who recently signed to Warner Bros. Records, had the challenge of following Guy. He nailed a cover of "Catfish Blues" full of fat-toned fury. He then introduced Clapton back to the stage, who backed Clark on a soulful "Shake For Me." Clapton grinned away, appearing thrilled to act as a sideman, and traded solos with Clark. Clapton then took the lead for a vigorous "Little Baby" with a swinging start-and-stop groove, looking at the ceiling while unleashing muscular solos full of vibrato. His playing wasn't flashy or overly virtuosic, but it was still Clapton.
By that time, Richards' appearance felt like a bonus. He looked happy and healthy in his set. He also looked like classic Keith: He took off his hat to reveal a full head of grey hair, so frizzy it looked like he was shocked by an electrical socket. He’s currently recording solo tracks with Steve Jordan for an upcoming album. Here's hoping he'll promote it by touring theaters, doing exactly what he did last night – singing center-stage, sitting while playing country blues and plugging in when he feels like it – especially if the Stones don't tour immediately.
After his set, more than thirty of the night's performers gathered on stage for group jams. Shemekia Copeland led the band on "Wang Dang Doodle" and everyone jammed on Sumlin’s signature riff, "Smokestack Lightning." It was crowded and messy, but still fun to watch. Richards even broke out some of his classic stage moves: kneeling down, pulling his hand away from the guitar each time he hit a note, and cracking up, especially when Billy Gibbons started fanning Kenny Wayne Shepherds' guitar. Something Costello said earlier in the night resonated: "The only sad thing about tonight is that Hubert’s not here."
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