Photographs by Stanley Johnson
George Thorogood certainly does know how to bludgeon the blues. Subtle, he ain’t.
But then again, the fans that packed into the Empire State Plaza Convention Hall last week for the final installment of the free Capital Concert Series weren’t looking for subtlety. It was a party, a beer-soaked, two-fisted drinking party, and 64-year-old Thorogood and his band the Destroyers provided the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am soundtrack from the opening volley of “Born to Be Bad” to the expected show-closing romp through “Bad to the Bone.”
Despite racks of flashy, computerized stage lights and not one, not two, but seven large video screens on stage, Thorogood & the Destroyers are still a bar band at heart – even after 40 years. With the band’s original drummer Jeff Simon still fueling the barroom blues ‘n’ boogie, the Destroyers ripped through selections from the songbags of rock pioneer Bo Diddley (“Who Do You Love?”), blues kingpin Elmore James (the encore of “Madison Blues”), ’60s garage-rockers the Strangeloves (“Night Time”) and country music legend Hank Williams (“Move It On Over”).
During his hour-and-a-half-plus set, Thorogood stepped up for a slide-guitar showcase in the middle of the on-the-road nugget “Gear Jammer.” And not surprisingly, it was the back-to-back pairing of his 80-proof alcohol anthems – “I Drink Alone” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” – that drew the loudest cheers of the night.
Lexington, Kentucky’s self-proclaimed “dirt rockers” Fifth On the Floor blasted through a batch of bruising southern rock with guitarist Justin Wells singing a rowdy, unabashed ode to the product of backwoods stills in “Shine,” while bassist Jason Parsons handled the relatively more tender songs such as “Angels in the Snow” from their new album, Ashes & Angels.
But it was Local 518 faves Scotty Mac & the Rockin’ Bonnevilles who took top honors of the night, despite being stuck performing in the less-than-acoustically accommodating lobby in front of The Egg’s box office. But guitar hero Mac, vocalist-harmonicat extraordinaire Ted Hennessy and the rhythm section uncorked a seriously rollicking, 50-minute opening set that stretched from Willie Dixon’s blues gem “29 Ways” to the rockabilly of Bill Haley & the Comets’ apocalyptic “13 Women” to the jazz-blues-swing of Mose Allison’s “Your Mind Is On Vacation (But Your Mouth Is Working Overtime)” to their own seriously funky plea for the reinstatement of the forgotten Muppet, “Bring Back Roosevelt Franklin.”
GEORGE THOROGOOD & THE DESTROYERS SET LIST
Born to Be Bad
Who Do You Love? (Bo Diddley)
Help Me (Sonny Boy Williamson)
Night Time (the Strangeloves)
I Drink Alone
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (Amos Milburn)
Get a Haircut
Move It Over (Hank Williams)
Twenty Dollar Gig
Bad to the Bone
Madison Blues (Elmore James)