"I have no business running around on stage like a young boy... I'm eighty-one years old," Chuck Berry explained as he excused himself for launching into a signature duck walk during the song "School Day." The passing of time clearly weighed heavily on his mind last Friday night - he choked up mentioning the recent death of his good friend Bo Diddley on more than one occasion, and obviously felt as if he needed to apologize to the audience for time having finally caught up with him in regards to his ability to run, dance, jump, and duck walk around stage the way he used to. Yes, the duck walk. And he can still pull it off. Kind of. Or, not really. But given the man's age, it was as rousing and impressive a feat as I could've imagined. Here was one of the fathers of rock and roll - at eighty one years old - so caught up in the moment that he couldn't help himself. He was on fire, mid-solo, and it just happened. The audience erupted and he finished the song with a huge smile on his face.
About a third of the show went just like this, a living legend living up to his name. The rest of the show was partially uneven, out of tune, and aged. However, the spirit of Chuck Berry carried the night handily; most memorably, as he caught himself repeating a song mid-set and then admitted that he'd forgotten what he was playing...
(pictures and live video after the jump)
above: Chuck Berry @ BB King's slideshow
Berry had just finished a medley of hits (including a rocking version of "Roll Over Beethoven") while showing a hint of difficulty remembering the lyrics to one song. He paused briefly before beginning "My Ding-A-Ling" to reassure the audience that he'd "remember the words to this one." Indeed, he did. However, after leading the crowd through the song he went right into "Roll Over Beethoven" - again. An air of unease settled over the room as everyone but Chuck realized immediately that we'd just heard "Roll Over Beethoven." Within measures Berry realized what he'd done and stopped mid-song. "I actually forgot what I was playing... I'll admit it!" he confessed, "Politicians oughta do that - admit it!" His handling of the moment brought levity and refreshing honesty to what could've been a miniature disaster. Instead, he went right into "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" without pause. You can see the whole thing for yourself below.
For the final two songs of the night, Chuck invited "six young ladies" to join him on stage. The "six" ended up being closer to fifteen or twenty women, and they brought Chuck Berry right back to late-'50s form... rocking, rolling, dancing, and strutting around the stage. He even ventured out into the audience while rocking out before departing to a standing ovation with his impromptu entourage of twenty screaming female fans in tow. The concert was one third amazing, one third showing signs of old age, and one third pure entertainment. No matter how you slice it, a living legend.
Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll.
*above slideshow created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
"School Day (Ring Ring Goes The Bell)"
"My Ding-A-Ling" into "Roll Over Beethoven" into "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" (live, from this show)
Visit Chuck Berry on MySpace.
09 June 2008