Time to go old school for the summer. As the month of July came to a close, with it came some great music that still holds sway in this day and age. This past weekend, George Thorogood & The Destroyers along with their peers Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes paid the good people of New York City a visit via The Beacon Theater. Not only was it an amazing throwback to some classic blues rock, but the performances proved that these men still have the skills to kill.
Despite the rainy Saturday evening, guests were relishing the unusually cool temperatures that swooped in. Finally, the humid heat dissipated for a temporary escape. For those who like to wet their whistle before some rock, head on over to McAleer’s Pub for an iced cold brew. It’s the best way to ease into the soon to be raucous events to come. Arriving at The Beacon gives way to crowds of 50+ aged couples and families who patiently waited in lines for entry. Once inside the legendary venue, bikers dominated the space with their handlebar mustaches and leather jackets, male and female alike.
Up in front of the stage, people were happily chatting and even some people were catching Pokemon on Pokemon Go, there were some ideal catches to be had. Luckily, the phones only were used to take photos later on. The nice and comfy atmosphere also had a fiery sense of anticipation along with it. That all reached its peak as Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes made their way onstage. Cheers and applause welcomed the musicians as they all waved out to the crowd.
Johnny immediately started a twitchy dance while holding his microphone as the music began, it was vaguely reminiscent to the wild antics of Joe Cocker. The horn section, John Isley, Chris Anderson and Neal Pawley, made sure to start things off on a groovy note in a synchronized dance. On guitar, Glenn Alexander, made the wails begin with pure praise. Discordant harmonies were a staple of their music that worked beautifully as the men all sang with smiles on their faces. It was pure classic rock all the way. It also helped them to stay hip with sunglasses on. The man who often stole the show, Mr. Isley, on baritone saxophone wooed the crowd with his solid tones and passionate instrumentation. Johnny kept true to his bluesy roots with his scratchy and powerful voice. He even got the crowd excited when he threw out a copy of their newest album, “Soultime,” to a lucky fan. Each member had their moment to shine with various solos on bass (John Conte), keys (Jeff Kazee) trumpet, sax, trombone, guitar drums (Tom Seguso) and even harmonica! As their set came to an end, all three horn players came out front and center and belched out both powerful tones and lilting goodness. Once finished, the men all greeted fans at the edge of the stage and were grateful.
Once Johnny and his mates cleared out, it took quite a while for the roadies to set things up for George. However, entertainment was not limited. Many fans were filled with a sense of adrenaline after Johnny’s performance and the main act was next. With beers in hand, these fans were boisterous and eager for the next round. On stage was only a raised drumset and a single microphone with a blue glare shining bright on what would soon be The Destroyer’s space. Finally all of the lights dimmed and a deafening cheer ensued from the audience. A stream of extremely bright spot lights beamed out and the man of the hour came out with a smile and arms raised which received even more shouts of adoration. The Destroyers, Jeff Simon, Bill Blough, Jim Suhler and Buddy Leach were close behind. Sporting a pair of sunglasses, his trademark snakeskin bandana and a black ‘Destroyers’ t-shirt, Mr. Thorogood was ready.
They took things off with a grinding and bluesy twang bit. It was a perfect way to begin with people raising out of their seats to stand in excitement. Rock Party was introduced and did a tremendous job in all its glory, extending well-beyond its studio recording. After a short while, George got into the vibe of the night and threw off his sunglasses to unveil his dead end stare to the crowd that almost always followed with his signature devilish grin. Many of these moments were due in part to his extensive guitar solos right at the edge of the stage for all to witness and marvel at. He still had that speed and passion with his black guitar as he wailed on and on with it all. He shouted, ‘somebody stop this,’ during one solo as the music took control. An added touch with his band was the inclusion of maracas during a bluesy tune. It was both new and an interesting aspect to the song. George, alongside his musical prowess, also had an optimistic stage persona with his flamboyant hip dances and dramatic raising of the arms. He was the musical gladiator up there all night long.
Probably the most captivating part of the entire performance were from The Destroyers. All four men were amazing at their chosen crafts but they were statues compared to George who dominated to show factor. They remained a solid bunch of blues rockers. Even when Mr. Thorogood stretched the songs, they contributed and waited patiently in the back doing their thing. Thankfully, the packed house at The Beacon continued to stand and applaud through it all which kept the spirit alive both onstage and off. Every time George opened that ginormous mouth of his, such raw power belched out of it. All of the tunes became journey making music. He added his comedic touch once more. He smiled and spoke to the crowd, ‘I have been waiting 40 years to do this, Live for New York, It’s Saturday Night!’ Of course, the audience jumped right in and helped him finish the classic SNL phrase.
George offered a ton of musical spirit in his tunes and it was felt a thousandfold. Fans loved it when he began a solo duel with saxophone player, Buddy. After that epic duel a series of long distorted rock songs came. All of the musicians came up to the edge of the stage to a series of strobe light madness. Jeff soon had his moment to shine as he was the only musician on stage for a bit as George serenaded the crowd. Eventually, his rendition of One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer had everyone singing along. His addition of his white cobra guitar and slide skills soon followed with even more admiration. He even used his comedy yet again by ‘knighting’ a fellow fan in the front row on the head with the neck of that same white guitar which received laughs up and down the aisles.
As the night slowly came to a close, George and crew wowed the crowd with their famous rendition of Move It On Over and the tremendous staple, Bad To The Bone. Each song remains legendary in itself and were made even more so with its live appeal. The lights behind the band lit up to the word ‘bone’ during the Bad To The Bone magic. It was all too wonderful to not leave smiling. They simply killed it and will still be killing it along the way.