Monday, July 6, 2009
Decked out in a sharp white three piece suit with red shirt and white tie, Lenis Guess took the stage at Brooklyn's Five Spot with a nice fresh peach in hand. He slowly savored a few bites of said peach, musing over how hard it is to find a nice fresh one in New York, then placed it in a ziploc bag, slowly removed his wrap around red shades, and confidently launched into "For All You've Been". Lenis told the crowd it was the first time he had ever performed the song on stage. There he was, some forty plus years after the release of that first solo record, just getting around to singing it in front of a live audience. Pretty hard to believe, considering it's one of his greatest songs, but then again it was pretty fitting for such a special night.
It had been a couple decades since Lenis last performed in New York, but you wouldn't have known it from the show he put on at June's Dig Deeper. Some people just seem to be born entertainers, with a charisma, a presence, that never really fades away. This is Mr. Guess to a tee. He's still got it!
Lenis worked the crowd like a pro, his voice still in remarkably fine form, as he moved through a killer selection of his classic 60's tracks. Highlights included "Working For My Baby", "Thank Goodness Gotta Good Woman", and of course, "Just Ask Me", the show closer. The aptly named Solid Set did an amazing job supplying the musical backing. Guitarist and band leader Damon, took some good-natured ribbing between songs from Lenis, who affectionately referred to him as "the greatest guitar player in the world" and the bespectacled bass player, whose name escaped Lenis, as "Buddy Holly".
After a perfect set of about forty five minutes or so, Lenis finished things off with a blazing encore of "Why, Why, Why'd She Leave Me?" (a crowd favorite!) and then left the stage to the cheers of a packed room.
As the place buzzed in the wake of what could only be described as a phenomenal performance, Lenis came back out in a mustard colored button down shirt and gray slacks and unassumingly walked through the club. Drawing no attention to himself, he quietly slipped out onto Myrtle Avenue. It was an almost Clark Kent like transformation, but not too surprising from a class act like Mr. Guess. A true gentleman, who's probably seen it all in his distinguished career, he let his music speak for him.
We're just glad we could have been there to see a legend work his magic. When we first started finding the name Lenis Guess on so many of these great Virginia records we were turning up, we never in our wildest dreams thought we'd see him perform live someday. It was almost surreal to actually be witnessing it, and there were definitely some emotional moments. It was truly something we'll never forget.
Thanks to Nicole Lang Key and Kimberlee Fuller for the photos. And thanks to Lenis Guess for bringing it!