George Thorogood & the Destroyers House of Blues April 26, 2011
George Thorogood is an odd sort of working-class hero.
Like many of his bluesy forefathers, the Delaware-born rocker is as modest and self-deprecating in person (or at least on the phone) as his songs are swaggering and braggadocious. Before his show at House of Blues last March, we asked him how important it was for musicians to have a signature riff, as he does with "Bad To the Bone."
This is what he told us:
Musicians, no. They don't have to worry about it. Regular people like me do. Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, who were real musicians, don't have to do that kind of thing. They played music so good, they got people's attention.
For regular people like me, I had to come up with something catchy. You know what I'm saying? Shakespeare does not need a calling card.
Thorogood and his band the Delaware destroyers' set at House of Blues Tuesday certainly wasn't Shakespeare, but then again, we doubt he owns too many Decemberists records. The hour and change zipped by on one signature riff after another (both his and others'), a bit of amusing stage patter, and songs that were as hearty and wholesome as a pot of beef stew.
"Nobody had to remind me what state I was in tonight," he said.
Thorogood and the Destroyers had already proved that once, with the duckwalking SRV boogie of opener "Rock Party." Then they proved it again, letting some chunky Cookie & the Cupcakes swamp pop creep into the Chuck Berry stroll of "Run Myself Out of Town."
"Workmanlike" would be one word for it. "Fun" would be another.
He's more of an actor than he lets on, too. The personas of Thorogood's well-chosen, familiar covers - the devil-may-care 22-year-old with a cobra snake for a necktie of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love"; the had-it-up-to-here old dog of Hank Williams' "Move It On Over" - each fit around his spare tire like a tailored suit. His spirited romp through Johnny Cash's "Cocaine Blues" made us wonder if anyone over at Charlie Sheen was having half as good a time as both the band and crowd were here. (Apparently they were. Huh.)
Thorogood's own songs held up to the same benchmark, though. Yes, there was "Bad To the Bone," teasing and pleasing with the lyric altered to "make a Texas girl squeal" as the 1982 video screened behind him. Watching Thorogood shoot pool with Bo Diddley in that clip always makes us think of the scene in Trading Places where Diddley tells Dan Aykroyd, "In Philadelphia, it's worth 50 bucks"; as many times as we've seen/heard them both, the movie and the song never seem to get stale.
Even better were "Haircut," an unlikely collision of Muddy Waters and T. Rex, and our favorite, the surly "I Drink Alone," which Thorogood introduced by announcing "Welcome to the hangover hotel." During John Lee Hooker's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" - timed out at an anemic nine minutes - Thorogood enhanced his bartender-blues soliloquy with a request for the audience to please not drink and drive.
That's about it, really. All in all, the show was a little too well-scrubbed for the blues. But not for good-time party music. Responsible good-time party music.
Personal Bias: Shakespeare, Bo Diddley and George Thorogood are all fine by us.
The Crowd: Astonishingly free of River Oaks socialites, college students, or scenesters of any sort. And digging every last drop.
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Overheard In the Crowd: "How much did you give her?" (before the show); "I'm gonna get some pussy, brah" (at the end)
Random Notebook Dump: Christ, has this just been an hour?