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2018 Waterfront Blues Festival: Day 4 Wrap

By SCOTT CUNNINGHAM // Ruthie Foster, George Thorogood, and some late night funk were the perfect close to the 2018 Waterfront Blues Festival.

With perfect weather the 2018 Waterfront Blues Festival wrapped up yesterday with another fantastic day of music.

Fireworks on Wednesday drew a slightly larger crowd, but yesterday had to be close in total attendance.

After an absence of several years, David Vest returned to the festival with his brand of boogie-woogie, Gulf Coast rock and roll. Vest is legendary in keyboard circles and his set was as good as any I've seen him perform.

And it was a big treat to see Peter Dammann sit in with Vest and lay down some awesome guitar. Dammann is the booker for the festival and does so much other work behind the scenes that the festival couldn't happen without him.

Peter Dammann

It had been ten years since Ruthie Foster had made an appearance at the festival, which is to say that was about nine years too long. I've always loved her voice, guitar playing, and the way she fuses the two together.

Foster's set was by far my favorite of the day. She drew heavily from her 2016 release "Joy Comes Back", which featured covers from the likes of Lucinda Williams, Son House, and Mavis Staples.

The highlight of the set was Phenomenal Woman, a song based on the poem by Maya Angelou and featured on Foster's 2007 release "The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster". She dedicated the song to the women in the audience and everyone around me was genuinely touched by the song.

Ruthie Foster

Foster is authentic in so, so many ways from her smile, to the comfort she exudes while on stage, and her genuine way of being. Here's to hoping she makes it back this way real soon.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers finished off the main festivities with a very well received set catered to his core fan base. With a career spanning some 40 years, Thorogood has had plenty of time to hone his stage presence and gig routine, with both on full display during the 80-minute set.

Polished would be another way to frame it: Everything was choreographed and rehearsed down to the last detail, including a small bit where his guitar tech delivered a guitar wearing a mask. For me, these bits and his well-used comedic riffs shifted the focus toward production elements and away from the music.

George Thorogood

Which is unfortunate, because the man can flat-out rock and roll.

Although it took a few songs for his vocals to warm up and feel right, his guitar playing was as good as any performance at the festival over the four-day run. About half-way through the set, he switched to slide guitar and showed why he will be remembered as one of the best electric blues players from his era.

After Thorogood's set, I wandered over to the Marriott to catch the late-night show with Polyrhythmics and The Motet. Both bands were terrific and laid down some serious funk for those who ventured over.

Some movin' and groovin' was the perfect way to cap off a wonderful four days of great music. Your humble narrator is wiped out, though. Look for a best of the fest post on Monday!

But, first, I think I'll take a long snooze.

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