Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A 'Killer' Blast from the Past -- Concert Review: Jerry Lee Lewis

Concert Review

Jerry Lee Lewis
with Ken Lovelace & the Memphis Beats (backing)
and The Modern Sounds (opening)
Congress Theater, Chicago
December 3, 2011

Once upon a time, in the late '50s, with due respect to Elvis and Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis was the most exciting musical performer in the nascent rock 'n' roll world.

At least among those I'm aware of, as it was still a decade before I made my appearance.

But take a look at this video on YouTube and I don't think there's much room for disagreement. More than 50 years later, I don't know anybody else who's ever played the piano quite like Jerry Lee and when he was a young man, his kinetic energy must have been as revolutionary as anything the punk era would beget.

Now play the video below. I didn't shoot it and it's too dark to see much, but as such, the differences between 76-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis--who appeared at the even older Congress Theater on Saturday night--and the 22-year-old phenom aren't all that easily discerned.

No, he doesn't look the same and he's not nearly as manic. His voice isn't quite as rich and his playing isn't consistently as thunderous. But it's all still, surprisingly, close enough to have made for an enjoyable show, a thriller by the Killer, as it were.

Although he had an enjoyable Chicago-based warmup band, The Modern Sounds--ironically named as they specialized in throwback jazz and pop--and his own backing band preceded his appearance onstage with a couple songs, Jerry Lee was only onstage for about an hour. But heck, the $12.50 I paid for admission--to a show originally booked for July 9 but postponed due to a Lewis illness--wouldn't have gotten me into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. And to see one of the charter members, live on stage and surprisingly robust--unlike, sadly, Chuck Berry's abbreviated show at the same venue back on New Year's night--was tremendously enjoyable and enriching.

I have a Lewis greatest hits collection, but there are really only 3 songs that I was truly hoping to hear. He skipped "Breathless" and for the bulk of the show played several songs I couldn't name, though they all sounded good. He did "Drinking Win Spo-Dee-O-Dee," which I recognized, Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" and to close the show, the great 1-2 punch of "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shaking Going On," which ended with Jerry Lee kicking over his piano bench. A nod to the past that to a satisfying degree was still present.

1 comment:

Donutte said...

Hey there, been putzing around my YouTube vids and learned I can find out where videos were embedded, and found out this was one. That's my crappy JLL vid there (I have a better camera now - MUCH better). Anyway, sweet blog you have going here! I have a feeling I might frequent it.