Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis

The piano may pale in rock and roll popularity next to the electric guitar, but these two pioneers certainly proved long ago that it was an ideal instrument with which to rip it up and go cat go. The question all these many years later is whether they're still ready to do so.

A Jerry Lee Lewis appearance is always punctuated with a question mark. Will you see brilliance or psychodrama, or some combination of both? One thing's certain: You'll rarely get mere mediocrity. At his best, Lewis remains the quintessential rock and roller, mixing Southern bad boy hoot 'n' holler with breathtaking pianistics, which he can still deliver even at his advanced age. In addition to his own certified classics, Lewis can also grab any number he chooses to sing -- such as his masterful late-1970s take on "Over the Rainbow" -- by the cojones and mold it into his own possession. Still an outsider, Lewis eschews show business conventions for a raw and sometimes wildly inconsistent approach. But he is rarely if ever boring -- a lesson many other aging rockers should pay some attention to.

Conversely, Little Richard abandoned his bad-boy ways some time ago in lieu of becoming something of a showbiz baby, albeit one who remains an oddity marked by his distinctively gushy and slightly fey personality. In short, he has embraced his role as an entertainer, which isn't such a bad bet when it comes to this rare local appearance. He remains the more reliable quantity of the two, as happy to please audiences as Lewis is content to do whatever the hell he damn well pleases.


Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis

H-Town's Arena Theatre, 7324 Southwest Freeway

Saturday, August 2; for more information, call 713-988-1020

Paired for an evening, these two could spark each other to past glories or deliver perfunctory sets to fulfill the gig contract. But to hear these founding fathers together and get to hear "Great Balls of Fire" and "Good Golly Miss Molly" in the same show is an opportunity well worth the risk of what may or may not transpire. And if you've yet to see either, do so while you still can.


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