Monday, June 6, 2011

Chuck Berry & Little Richard: October 21, 2000

This will be unique among my blog entries, because I actually have a record of what I thought about the concert at the time. The following text is from my long-defunct first blog, written a few days after the show in 2000.

Last weekend I experienced something very strange indeed. Joe and I saw Little Richard and Chuck Berry ("The Kings of Rock 'n' Roll," so their posters declared) perform at a horse racetrack in Cicero, IL. It was like something out of a movie, with the betting counters everywhere you turned and the sound of the announcer talking about horses with names like "Holy Conflict" and "Mary Had a Little Wolf." 

We sat on plastic chairs in a Plexiglas-enclosed room facing the track. We actually saw part of the races and the tractor going around the track smoothing the dirt. At the bottom of the rows of chairs, someone had unceremoniously plopped a stage for The Kings of Rock 'n' Roll. Alice Cooper had just played there a few days earlier. Welcome to my nightmare indeed.

Little Richard was surprisingly good, but poor Chuck Berry was another story. First off, his band was wretched. He actually remarked that they were rehearsing and would let us know when the show really started. Sometimes they were so out of time that he would signal for them to stop and perform the song with just guitar as accompaniment. Sometimes he was so out of time that he'd stop the song altogether. He only managed to get through a couple of complete songs -- "My Dingaling" unfortunately, and "Reelin' and Rockin'," which, I'm certain, benefited from the fact that Chuck had some big-breasted women dancing onstage to inspire him.

If the show was a mixed bag, my feelings about it were even more mixed. While it's great that these guys, who surely are legends, are still entertaining people after all this time, there is something maudlin about seeing senior citizens trying to rock and roll. While there are plenty of artists growing old gracefully -- Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Marianne Faithfull, etc. -- they generally do so by coming to terms with their age, not by rehashing the past.

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