DESTROYERS WRECK FILLMORE
George Thorogood walks out on the stage before the sellout Fillmore crowd. He looks in his 40s, a working class kind of guy, shoulder-length hair, black sleeveless tshirt with Rock 2000 on the front, snakeskin pattern headband. Satyr-like gleam in the eyes. He is holding both arms in the air, a white guitar in one hand. The crowd is screaming. He struts. He is confident. He looks like a man who knows himself, who knows exactly what he is doing. He is . . . in his skin.
The rest of the Destroyers materialize, a fat guy with a sax, two longhaired guys on bass and rhythym guitar, drummer with pirates headband.
George kicks it right into Be-Bop Grandma. Jesus! I forgot what real live rock & roll was like. What power! This is an awesome band. The sax player is brilliant, he and George trade solos. The drummer boots it right along. George sings great, and he connects to everyone in the room, especially the ladies. This is one sexy guitar-slingin dude!
To hear real rock & roll again . . . man! Once in a while Ill get a flashback to what Haight Street was like in say, 63 64. When it was fresh and pure and exciting . . . before the east coast guys arrived, before the summer of love. (Dont get me started!)
The Fillmore by the way is in great shape right now. Ive seen some great music there in the last few years. Susan Tedeschi (now theres another story), Malathini and the Mahotella Queens, John Prine . . . The lighting, sound, ambiance are all great. Its been resurrected with a loving touch, its still a wonderful music hall. Great lighting, good sound, good ventilation.
After the second song, everyone in the room knows this is one of those nights. You cant predict it, you never know (at least I never know) when a band is going to bring it all together. But here it is.
George comes to the mike:
When I woke up this morn . . . I mean this afternoon (leer) I knew what city I was in! (cheers) Its been two years since I been here . . . and thats too long! (cheers)
Tonight, I will do bad things, I will do dirty things, I will do nasty things . . .
In fact I will do everything in my power . . . to get arrested tonight! (crowd roars) If anyone has to go to jail for rock & roll, it might as well be me! (crowd cheers and stomps)
The band rips into another 4 straight songs. George and the sax player are hot. George has his guitar work stripped down to essentials. On his solos, youre not aware of technique, because hes got it distilled to just what it needs to be, no frills. Like sometimes hell keep repeating the same note over and over and its just right. And the sax player is a marvelous musician, giving it a big-band feel. In fact it sounds like a 12-piece band. The music has everyone in the room tuned in, in the same spot. Each songs ending is crisp, the last note (or drum shot) leaving a somehow exquisite silence.
George is a great showman, all his moves are graceful and masterful. He struts for the girls and talks to them, Come along and bring your friend, baby . . .
He sings Treat Her Right.
He was influenced primarily by John Lee Hooker, he says, and when you read his background, you see Elmore James, Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley. Good Company. Thorogood is a former pro baseball player. In the ’80s his band opened for the Rolling Stones. The Destroyers’ famous tour in 1981 was called 50/50. That meant they toured 50 states in 50 days and played a gig in every one of them. No nights off!
Heres something I picked up on the web about him:
Nobody seems to know anything about George Thorogoods personal life. He doesnt want to talk about it, claiming that he is an ageless man who enjoys rough life and endless touring. He is interested only in music, beer, whiskey, women and baseball. He understands someone writing about John Lee Hooker or James Brown people whove made an incredible impact on music history. But the Destroyers? Were like a burger joint, he says. Then again, theres nothing wrong with selling cheeseburgers as long as theyre quality cheeseburgers, he adds and says thats the way he thinks of the Destroyers.
Among the songs are One Bourbon, Once Scotch & One Beer, Shake Your Money Maker, Bad to the Bone, You Talk Too Much, Who Do You Love?, Im Ready, and Lets Work Together.
Apparently hes somehow never played the Fillmore before, and he is thrilled to be here:
I mean here we are at Fillmore West . . . bein the number one fuckin rock & roll venue in the world!
I am standing about 2/3 of the way down towards the stage, on the right side. The lighting is red, and in the balcony, the arched look-down openings, glow with a warm light. The room seems full, as if all the tendrils in the space above our heads have knit together to form solid music.
When it feels good, you just gotta keep goin . . .
George talks about how his brother Bob was always telling him, why dont you get a haircut and get a real job.
Well I never got a haircut and I never got a real job! (cheers) And Im making ten times as much now as my brother Bob . . . who cut his hair and has a real job!
George, nearing the end of the set:
Hey, dont grow up to be like me . . . dont grow up at all!!!
George goes backstage and comes out with a new black sleeveless tshirt, this one saying: The Destroyers.
The last song is a wicked rock version of Move It On Over. Move over cold dog cuz a hot dogs movin in. Hank would be proud.
The band exits, the crowd is roaring, stomping. They come back. Hey San Francisco! (roar) Are you with me? (Louder roar)
The band plays one final kick-ass song and exits. Things feel too good to leave right away, and people just kind of stand around for a while. Then slowly drift out into the warm foggy midnight on Fillmore Street.
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