Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Thorogood throws 'Rock Party'

George Thorogood entertained fans during
a shindig at the Island Resort and Casino last weekend.
[Photo by Wendy Pepin]


George Thorogood hosted what he called a "jamboree and rock session" at the Island Resort & Casino in Harris last weekend.

He deftly mixed his early cover songs, mid-career hits and recent studio material into an evening of crowd-pleasing fun.

I took my nephew Garrett Germain to his first rock concert and we sat just a few rows away from center stage for the March 27 show.

With the exclamation, "How sweet it is," the veteran blues rocker launched his show with the driving "Rock Party," contained on "The Hard Stuff," his compact disc from 2006. "Everybody's gonna feel alright at the rock party tonight," Thorogood sang.

Sporting sunglasses and a headband, Thorogood was backed by the Destroyers, his crack band comprised of Jeff Simon (drums), Billy Blough (bass), Jim Suhler (rhythm guitar) and Buddy Leach (sax).

During the opening number, Thorogood tossed his sunglasses over his head. They were caught by Leach to cheers from the crowd.

Thorogood showed some of his early influence with a rousing rendition of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love." The classic rock number was issued by Rounder Records in 1978 as the second single by George Thorogood & The Destroyers when the group was based in Boston.

"Who do you love?" Thorogood sang. "I hope it's me!"

Firing-up the crowd, Thorogood announced, "I'm going to do everything in my power to get arrested tonight." He then roared into "The Fixer," from his 2003 album, "Ride 'Til I Die."

The Delaware native and former semi-pro baseball player followed with "The Night Time," growling "I wanna be with you." The song showcased a powerful bass solo by Blough, emphasizing the song's compelling beat.

Thorogood offered the first of his own compositions with "I Drink Alone," a single from 1985. That was followed by "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," the John Lee Hooker song Thorogood has made his own.

The next selection was dedicated to Johnny Cash. Thorogood ripped through "Cocaine Blues," a number Cash played at a Folsum Prison concert. "I knew Johnny Cash. I knew June Cash. They thought I was a cool guy. So I have that going for me," Thorogood told the audience.

The band returned to their most-recent studio album for "I Got My Eyes On You," which offered Thorogood another chance to demonstrate his masterful slide guitar skill.

"Bad to the Bone," one of Thorogood's best songwriting efforts, continued the party atmosphere. The audience instantly recognized the 1982 hit, prominent in the movies Terminator 2 and Problem Child. The song also received massive exposure on FM radio and MTV.

"Ba-ba-ba-bad to the b-b-bone," Thorogood vocalized as the audience cheered him on with a standing ovation.

Declaring "We have not begun to rock," Thorogood blasted into another original, "Gear Jammer," which allowed the guitarist to indulge in another stunning guitar work-out.

Thorogood revisited his roots with "Move It On Over," a blues number written by country legend Hank Williams in 1947. Thorogood sang about coming home late and being forced to sleep in the doghouse.

The song was the title track to Thorogood's second album, released in 1978. "Pretty good, huh?" Thorogood asked at the song's conclusion as the audience rose in appreciation.

A rare ballad, "What a Price," was next on the set list. Suhler added some appropriately understated guitar licks. "Goodbye baby, I'm gone," Thorogood sang at the song's conclusion.

Thorogood kicked the program into high gear again with the 1988 original, "You Talk Too Much." The energetic number featured another tasty sax contribution by Leach.

"Love Doctor," another recent studio selection, kept the audience standing. "You people are crazy," Thorogood exclaimed.

The singer-songwriter-guitarist noted that his casino shows marked the band's second visit to Harris. "We hope to start a long and beautiful relationship," Thorogood told the crowd.

Thorogood ended his shindig with "Madison Blues." Written by bluesman Elmore James, "Madison Blues" was the debut single by George Thorogood and the Destroyers back in 1978.

"Do you feel it?" Thorogood asked. As the song built to a climax, Thorogood jumped up, landing on one knee. The 59-year-old musician bowed and in a bit of Hollywood schtick, seemingly collapsed from exhaustion.

Even after two encores, Thorogood returned to shake hands with audience members, demonstrating his considerable rapport with fans. He showed tireless energy despite entertaining concert-goers in Columbus, Ohio, nearly 500 miles away, the previous day.

"Don't rush me," Thorogood said at one point during the show. "It's taken me 35 years to get here and I'm enjoying every minute of it."

Indeed, Thorogood started his music career in 1974, following a stint playing second base on a minor league team. Long-time drummer Jeff Simon played center field on the same squad.

Thorogood wasn't long into his new profession when he discovered a boisterous blend of rock and blues which added legions of devotees to his fanbase.

He hasn't changed that formula in decades, which annoys some critics. His audience, on the other hand, has come to expect exactly what Thorogood delivered Friday night: a terrific 'rock party.'

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