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July 15, 2005

Chuck Berry brings down the house


The 78–year–old legend played a little rock 'n roll music at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, Germany recently and knocked 'em dead.

Here's what I love about Chuck Berry: he's the opposite of synthetic, lip–synching and all the bogus garbola that live music embodies all too often these days.

For example: two of the three musicians on stage with Berry were local hires.

You gotta be plenty confident about yourself to wing it like that.

Richard Milne, reviewing the show in this past Tuesday's Financial Times wrote, "As he approaches his ninth decade, Berry can show many far younger performers that, as long as you have that touch, you can still put on a concert as free and fun as any."

Here's Milne's story.

    Chuck Berry

    This joyous curio of a concert started with a trick so simple it was brilliant.

    On traipsed Chuck Berry's backing group and struck up the first song complete with guitar.

    But where was Chuck?

    Suddenly the realisation dawned - the 78-year-old rocker was playing from the wings before making a triumphant entry.

    Dressed in bright red trousers, a patterned shirt over a white t-shirt and topped with a white navy cap, Berry cut a sprightly if rather eccentric figure.

    His shows in the past decade or more have been characterised by their erratic nature but from the off here he played a sumptuous set highlighting his claim to be a rock 'n' roll legend.

    His own guitar playing - as simple and sparse as ever - was all about feel.

    Others can play better and fancier but for his own brand of songs such as "Johnny B. Goode" and "Sweet Little Rock and Roller" his rhythmic playing was perfect.

    At times he muddied the sound, at others he picked out a melody with just his left hand, but throughout he showed that his good ear and touch had not deserted him.

    The audience's initial smile remained in place as Berry improvised both the setlist and the songs.

    A thirtysomething, pony-tailed man spent much of the gig dancing in the aisles playing air guitar.

    As befits a man never too keen on the idea of a band, two of the three musicians on stage were local hires.

    The best of the lot was a spectacular but showy pianist who took his undoubted talent and ran with it a little too far at times, even jumping on top of the piano to salute the audience after one wonderful solo.

    "It doesn't have to be loud. It's the feeling," Berry said, chastising him.

    As he approaches his ninth decade, Berry can show many far younger performers that, as long as you have that touch, you can still put on a concert as free and as fun as any.

July 15, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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