George Thorogood rocks Boston with zeal

A review of George Thorogood and The Destroyers at the House of Blues on March 11, 2009

, Staff

The signs of time can be unkind to the old rocker at a live show. Their voice might be starting to go, they might be a little rustier on the strings and they most likely can’t move around the stage like they used to, making it hard to replicate the live performances they delivered in their hay day – let Ozzy Osbourne be an example here. But thankfully, not every old rocker is acting his age.& &

George Thorogood and the Destroyers came back to their Boston stomping grounds and proved that old bands die slow – they rocked the House of Blues with just as much badass attitude as they had in their prime, making black bandanas and tight leather pants seem cool again.&

As the lights dimmed to signal the shows start, retired bikers and rockers mixed with the sporadic twenty- or thirty-something gathered on the floor and began chanting “George, George, George.” The band slowly walked onto the stage looking like a true motley crew, all dressed head to toe in black, complete with a pair of black sunglasses. George walked center stage pointing at the audience with a huge ear to ear grin – and as the crowd howled he seemed to be right where he belonged.

They opened with “Rock Party Tonight” and “Who Do You Love”, two upbeat numbers that showcase Thorogood’s bare-knuckled voice and Buddy Leach’s amazing sax skills, which add a bluesy touch and take off some of the hard rock edge. George shimmied all over the stage, throwing his sunglasses into the crowd and lifting his guitar over his head as he suggestively jolted his hips toward the audience. He even brought back some of the old eighties rock star spins and kicks – officially making him the David Lee Roth to my Van Halen.

The rest of the set was full of rock blues classics that make you want to take a shot of whiskey and jump on the back of some fat guy’s Harley, like “I Drink Alone”, the notorious “Bad to the Bone”, and “Get a Haircut”, which Thorogood dedicated to his high school gym teacher.

Their performance of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”, a story of a guy drinking his money problems away, was the night’s highlight. The song started with Thorogood solo on stage and the minute he played the first few chords the crowd recognized the tune. Bassist Billy Blough, Jim Suhler on guitar and Leach would sporadically steal the spotlight with teasing solos, building up to the song’s climax in the chorus. Thorogood was playful with the lyrics, giving the song’s story line an authentic Boston twist by referencing Yawkey Way and the Boston House of Blues; he even threw a few Massachusetts girls into the tale.

One unexpected cameo was a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” acting as the night’s unconventional wildcard. The song’s lyrics make it perfect match for Thorogood’s hard image – it’s about a man who shoots his wife while under the influence of whiskey and cocaine – but the beat is a lot more mellow with a western, country feel.& He dedicated the song to Johnny Cash and June Carter, telling the crowd that he knew them and they thought he was a “cool guy.” “So I’ve got that going for me,” he said with a smile.&

Another atypical tune for the band came in the show’s first encore, where George showed a softer, more serious side of himself with “What a Price”, a short blues song originally recorded by Fats Domino. He performed the number alone on a dark stage, giving an intimate, emotional vibe to the venue and proclaimed his guitar talents by adding dramatic solos, making his version a lot livelier then the original recording. Other, more buoyant additions to the band’s two encores were “You Talk Too Much” and “Love Doctor”, where the group brought it back up again to the energetic, forceful level where the band does best.

In the night’s final number, “Madison Blues”, a snappy song of hard-hitting strings and soulful sax, Thorogood gave it his all – jumps on speakers, high kicks, spins and twirls – he even grabbed the mike stand, pointing it at the audience while shaking his sweaty face exclaiming “Do you feel it?” In the song’s last beat he collapsed to the ground – and after a few seconds his band mates lifted him up to reveal a goofy grin, he shouted “I’ll see you at the World Series” as they carried him off stage.& He did make a more few more brief appearances on stage, running out to blow kisses and wave peace signs at fans as they filtered out of the venue as if he didn’t want the night to end, proving could hold his own with the more youthful rock stars of today; eat your heart out John Mayer.&

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