Corona, CA: Fender Visitor Center Grand Opening In Corona, CA Features Buddy Guy & Raphael Saadiq

Four words: Buddy Guy & Fender Guitars. Damn do those two names lead to a damn fine night.

Starting at 6 PM, the famous guitar manufacturer Fender in Corona, CA opened the doors of its brand-new Visitor Center to a small group of media, VIPs and music lovers.

Upon arrival, guests sauntered through its museum-esque collection of fender guitars and basses, signature series guitars, and Buddy Holly-to-Kurt Kobain memorabilia, while filling themselves to the brim with limitless brews and buffet food - ( including sushi, which is essentially the Cristal of Buffet Food, right?). This of course was all really in preparation for the night’s biggest gift: live performances from Dave Mason, Raphael Saadiq, and the legendary Buddy Guy.

If holes could be burnt through guitar strings last night, they would have been. Instead, music swirled, people danced drunk and happy, and onlookers saw firsthand how such the seemingly “simple” instrument – and its home-grown company Fender – has charmed its way into the heart of music for good.

We arrived just in time for Raphael Saadiq to slide suavely on-stage and nurse us into soulful swaying with his smoothly delivered rhythm and blues. (Sorry Dave Mason fans…..I am sure there’s some youtube posts on his performance. Heard it was wicked…traffic was nuts getting out of the LA jungle though….)

Onstage, Saadiq has the stage presence and timelessness that rivals most legends (Did we mention he’s playing Sam Cooke on the new TV show The Playboy’s Club? Discuss. )

However, Saadiq was simply warming up the turf for Buddy Guy – who came onstage with a broad grin, patterned silk shirt, and mischievous stare. Lest we remind you – Buddy Guy is one of the best living performers and guitar players ever. He’s revolutionized blues rock as we know it – and throughout his career – challenged the ways electric guitar can be played (His first ‘guitar’? a two-string diddley bow he created himself.) Live – he and his guitar runs wild. He doesn’t use a set list. He doesn’t need one. Onstage, he taps into the emotional consciousness of any homo sapien and then takes it on a long roller coaster ride of rapture.

At 75 years young, with an illustrious career, he’s still singing about the thick and the thin, – and he’s still singing about it like he’s walking through those lyrical fires – barefoot. Considering this fete was in honor of the history of the Fender Strat, it was tear-jerking to watch him work his magic on his instrument. He plays the strat with his fingers, heart, soul, and occasionally, his chest – slow, morose plucks building to long, dirty, solos spun that coil fast and tight into vivid crescendos.

After talking about his early inspirations (Guitar Slim – “The Things That I Used To Do“), ‘The Guy’ carefully pitched his new CD ‘Living Proof” before launching into the new track “74 years young.” The crowd screamed more when Buddy wailed “You’re getting me so funky I could be here all night.” Except quite early on, he made it clear his duty of the night: to continue to pass on the baton and inspire a younger generation of wailers.

Mid-set, he brought up on stage little 12 year old guitar prodigy Quinn Sullivan – who has known Buddy Guy since he was was 7 years old (the kid has been playing since he’s 5 years old.) Now at 12, the kid was wailing and nursing his guitar like an old pro. I dare say Jimi woulda been beaming like Buddy last night to watch the fire in this kid’s hands.

The concert ended as fast as it began. However, in its finale, both a legend and future legend shared the stage, assuring us there will be many more years of epic guitar licking to come.

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