Wednesday, August 20, 2014

George Thorogood and The Destroyers - Delaware County Fair - July 11th, 2014

The television show "Married With Children" was a microcosm of the ultimate white trash neighbors but despite that the show was known for much more than just "white trash."  While the show was called vulgar, asinine, rude and stupid I would wager more than a select few would know at least one character thus describing that character would be so well done it would look like it was written for character development.  Of the Bundy family few would garner more comments than good ol' Al but what does that have to do with George Thorogood?

Al Bundy was best known as a shoe selling, disrespected father / husband that simply wanted to be anywhere his family wasn't.  While Al wasn't known for his "coolness" or his choice in cool vehicles (seriously have you seen that crappy Dodge Duster) there was an episode where Bundy got a sweet little motorcycle.  When Al and his alter-ego were riding that bike the soundtrack to the ride was "Born to Be Bad" by George Thorogood. While "Married With Children" was a great show, it wasn't uncommon for music of the day to be used in the episodes and while I cannot remember any other songs used, "Born to Be Bad" has stuck in my mind ever since. It shouldn't be much of a surprise that the song was used in the program but more often than not it is the song that is forgotten before the episode will be.  I don't think that really is the case with any of Thorogood's music however.  With the mixture of blues and rock 'n' roll, original songs and classic remakes, Thorogood is incredible.

On July 11th, 2014 I attended the Delaware County Fair in Manchester, Iowa with the explicit reason of seeing George Thorogood and The Destroyers.  I found a certain sense of irony in the fact that Thorogood's band at times is called "The Delaware Destroyers" and I was seeing their performance at the Delaware County Fair but since Thorogood didn't allude to the name I'm guessing few thought of that parallel out loud.  Despite the relatively close proximity of my home and Manchester, Iowa I had never attended the fair.  I was surprised a little by the size of the fair and the quality of entertainment that they had performing there.  The evening before Easton Corbin (a country music phenom) was on stage at the Fair and with the addition of Thorogood they were pulling few punches.

When Thorogood took the stage nightfall began to close in but that meant nothing to the 64 year old star.  Within the fact that I had never seen Thorogood live I was excited as I tried to determine what music he would perform from a very large, very successful catalog of music.  His body of work includes fifteen studio albums,  five live albums and six compilation albums which spawned sixteen singles.  Of those records six achieved gold status and two were platinum which in and of itself is interesting as more often than not Thorogood could be considered a Blues artist they simply don't chart where Thorogood did.  While one could debate that "blues" label consider for a moment that two of his albums were number one on the Blues charts, three were number two, and three others were in the top ten on the Blues charts.

Its an interesting dynamic if you really think about it.  Certainly the birth of rock 'n' roll doesn't happen without Blues music but for many the genre isn't looked upon as one of importance.  More often than not Blues music is thought of as long, drawn out and at times simplistic in its content but those assumptions are not correct.  Blues is complex and it has this edge that you can feel when you spend any time within it.  A performer like Thorogood can take those assumptions, crumple them up and throw them back in your face.  The impetus of Thorogood's music is blues with a rock edge that will transform itself into a portion of your world.

As Thorogood performed each song seemed like it was a replay of some portion of my life and I think that for many in attendance those feelings were also true.  It was incredible watching the stage presence he seemingly exudes.  With a simple stage show that did include the small complexity of a video screen that took us through the history of the performer and the band.  With simple purple and blue lights intermixed with a spotlight or two the music was the real focus and not explosions, fire pots and unnecessary dramatics.

Its not uncommon for the music to be lost within the production but the band that fills the stage is simply incredible.  One member, Jeff Simon, has been with Thorogood on drums since 1973 (I was five), another member, Billy Blough, has been playing bass in The Destroyers since 1977 and their prowess is obvious.  It would be egregious of me to omit the remaining members, Jim Suhler (rhythm guitar) and Buddy Leach (sax), because they too are integral parts to the success of the band and the quality of the music they put forth nightly.  This band is incredible and they were exciting and fun to watch.

Earlier I mentioned that Thorogood is 64 years old and if I'm being honest I would have never thought that was true, not by a long shot.  First of all his actions on stage and his presence would never make me think that he was that age.  Vocally the man sounds like he did when I first began to listen to him in the late '70's.  There are few performers that can say vocally they sound like they did forty (yes I said FORTY) years ago making it obvious that he has taken care of his voice.  It should come as no surprise that Thorogood plays as tight as his bandmates and he really is fun to watch.  The fact of the matter is that the man is a consummate performer and he plays with the precision of a surgeon, he's incredible.

The month of July 2014 was a watershed month for me.  I had two very large music festivals to attend and I knew that I would be inundated with well over 50 bands to see and review but when I learned George Thorogood and The Destroyers were going to be so close to my home I had to make the trek.  While I had never attended the venue, fair, or event and I had never seen the performer live I decided to roll the dice.  I knew the music and the performer so there was an assumption that I would enjoy the event but the level to which I would was far off.  The band and the man are simply so good that I really wanted to follow them to their next gig just to see them perform again.

Al Bundy was onto something when he fired up that motorcycle and daydreamed to the soundtrack of "Born to Be Bad."  Yes Al was a fictional character but that song signaled a watershed event for Bundy's character.  While the lowly shoe salesman struggled within his family, his career and his own being he gravitated to a very real number two hit in "Born to Be Bad."  Bundy saw it, heck America saw it, the song really parlays what Thorogood stands for and how to do so.  Think about it for a second, its all about attitude.  Isn't that what rock 'n' roll is about?  It sure is, but mix in a good shot of Blues and what you get is George Thorogood and The Destroyers.  Do yourself a favor and see this band post haste.  Unbelievable show!

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