With the temperature at 95 degrees at eight in the evening, opening act blues band Robert Cray Band didn’t need to warm up the crowd. Let’s face it – the fans had fans of their own (their programs). But Robert Cray delivered a well paced set that really got things cooking. Cray covered all the hits, and justified his career’s staying power with the level of his musicianship. When he went into a soft, delicate passage of blues riffs on his guitar, he made it clear that sometimes the blues are a quiet thing. The experience was revelatory.
Then George Thorogood and the Destroyers took the stage, the audience was ready to rock. After an introductory “Eve of Destruction” played, the man appeared onstage and set out to “destroy” the crowd with his powerful guitar riffs. Once the familiar riff that introduces “Bad To The Bone” plays, you might as well be at the Super Bowl; the crowd has been waiting for this moment and they go crazy. You know the riff – it’s the one that is used worldwide when someone “bad” is about to be introduced.
He played a good, long time. “Rock Party,” the opening number set the celebratory mood. With “Who Do You Love?” Thorogood sets the place on fire. He uses his guitar like an automatic weapon, all the while treating it with equal care and tenderness. It is something like watching a guy carry a hand grenade across a floor of rice paper… or maybe a bit like speeding through a tunnel at night with your lights off. “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” – who cares if he diminishes the full effect by inserting a “Don’t Drink and Drive” reminder in between verses? It’s still a killer song. Thorogood gives “Get A Haircut” an emphasis to the gravity and mines the lyric for every ounce of golden wit.
George Thorogood’s acquired vaudeville persona blends perfectly with the balls-to-the-walls rock that he sends out. But his not just the same old song-and-dance. He offers the one-liners with the same style and showmanship as when he is playing his guitar. The guy is a one-man travel-guide through the history of early rock. Every posture he takes, every attitude is perfectly tuned to take you to the essence of whatever song he is playing. He struts around the stage like only a born rock ‘n’ roller can; the man is a master entertainer.
So off into the night, the somewhat aged crowd went, climbing the steps up and out of the amphitheatre… many of them wondering where they had parked their cars, no doubt. Then there was the completely wasted dude who cam up to me and asked why I was there? “To hear the best blues and rock guitar out there” I replied. He said he asked because everyone in the crowd seemed so old, and he informed me (and by “informed” I mean that he yelled at me while falling down drunk) that he was only 21 years old and that he had never heard of this guy Thorogood. “So, what did you think?” I asked. “He was AWESOME!” said the pile of youth draped over the stair handrail. I pointed this guy back to the party that he came with and headed home, safe in the knowledge that true rock ‘n’ roll still has it. Especially when it comes in the form of George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
The latest album released by George Thorogood & the Destroyers is actually a live album from a 1982 concert. You can read my review of this album by clicking here.