You never forget your first George Thorogood show, or your second, or even your third. Or your twenty-second, I suppose, if you make a career out of it. Thorogood’s just that kind of performer, one of a kind. For the folks gathered at Hampton Beach’s Casino Ballroom for the hot and steamy Thursday night show, they won’t forget that show either – it was just that much fun. There is only one Thorogood, probably for two reasons – 1) no one can copy him, and 2) no one could keep up with him.
I am only on my third George Thorogood & The Destroyers show, but I’ve been a fan since the early days. I may be getting older, but by the looks Thorogood is not. The man has not lost a thing as the years have slipped by – his vocals are as sharp as ever, his guitar work is as tight as ever, and his antics are as naughty as ever. The setlist hasn’t varied a great deal since I saw him four or so years ago, but the music stands the test of time. Plus, Thorogood sells every single song with attitude, verve, and a big old grin. This was a great show, as expected.
Hampton Beach’s Casino Ballroom is a wonderful venue: big enough to hold a couple of thousand people and small enough to be an intimate performance. Thorogood is great on a big stage, but he’s even better on the smaller stage with the fans right at his feet. Artists seem to love performing there, and the fans flock to see their favorites up close and personal.
Starting off with “Rock Party,” Thorogood set a pace for the night and kept the energy up for the entire show. The crowd went wild as Thorogood paced the length of the stage and drew in the crowd. “And away we go…” he hollered for “Who Do You Love?,” a longtime favorite of fans. Next was “The Fixer,” followed by “Night Time” with its pounding, irresistible beat. “I Drink Alone” had fans on their feet again, singing along, knowing every alcoholic play on words that made the song a longstanding favorite.
We settled in for the classic John Lee Hooker tune “House Rent Blues” and version of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer.” With Thorogood in the spotlight, he keyed on the audience to move the song along before everything broke loose as the song took off. Fans were thrilled. “Get a Haircut” was next with Thorogood grinning like a kid all the way through, in fact he seemed genuinely happy to be performing, always a wonderful experience for the fans. “Gear Jammer” was a guitar spectacle solo, full of attitude and playing it up for the crowd. “Move It On Over” was next, another fan favorite.
Speaking of guitar solo, there are more people on stage than just Thorogood, but it is hard to take your eyes off of him and focus on the members of The Destroyers. Jim Shuler, on guitar, had a solo while Thorogood went off stage for a moment and Shuler continued to be featured during the next song, “Tail Dragger,” and gave a great performance. “Bad to the Bone” was the last song before a rousing encore of Elmore James’ “Madison Blues” which seemed to keep going as long as the crowd was dancing along.
Before wrapping up, I have to mention one more thing, a kudos to Thorogood. Many of us are turning out to see big performers from the 70s and 80s, and it is pretty typical to find that our favorite songs have been monkeyed with – scaling back the tempo, flattening the vocal range, letting the audience do half the lyrics – so that they can get the job done. This cannot be said about Thorogood. While several songs during his set did receive a bit of an update for the stage, it was for added impact and to show off Thorogood’s signature guitar skills. The songs and the show were as strong and as fast as ever, musically and vocally. Amazing.