“Hot damn, here I am!” George Thorogood greeted a packed Hard Rock last night (Aug. 5) in Northfield, Ohio.
The 68-year old “Bad to the Bone” guitarist has been playing with his Destroyers band for forty years now, and (judging from his Sunday evening blowout) evinces no signs of slowing down. Thorogood’s released dozens of discs over the last few decades, including 2011’s 2021 South Michigan Avenue and the 2017 solo album Party of One—which features muscular remakes of old-school blues songs by John Lee Hooker, The Rolling Stones, and Johnny Cash.
But George and The Destroyers confined their Buckeye State Rock Party gig to tried-and-true hits from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Taking the stage following a recorded version of 1965 Barry McGuire protest anthem “Eve of Destruction,” the band proceeded to demolish the “Rocksino” interior with an hour and a half of high-decibel, hundred-proof amplifier quaking, rafter-rattling blues rock and roll.
Here are five reasons you should catch “Lonesome George” and The Destroyers on tour.
1. Thorogood’s bad-boy shtick is entertaining as hell.
“Our probation officers gave us the weekend off!” Thorogood joked a couple songs into the Sunday shindig.
“But if anyone’s gonna get arrested for rock and roll, it might as well be me!”
George has always seasoned his mid-song banter with barroom braggadocio, cheeky come-ons, and preacher-like homilies. One may question whether Thorogood consumes a fraction of the booze (or women) he did in his heyday, but the charismatic front man can still convince crowds of the authenticity of his homages to alcohol and amorous behavior. Opening cuts “Ain’t Coming Home Tonight” and “Who Do You Love?” set a frantic pace with diesel-powered guitar passages and strident Bo Diddley beats (courtesy drummer Jeff Simon), and the guys never let up.
Thorogood, the quintessential ham-in-a-headband, must’ve been a class clown in his younger years. With his mischievous smile, gyrating hips, and sorcerer-like finger-tutting, George conducted Destroyers bassist Bill Blough and co-guitarist Jim Suhler (on gold-top Les Paul) through one barnstorming jukebox gem after another—sometimes stretching the four-minute recorded versions into nine or ten-minute long instrumental jams / bullsh@t sessions.
2. No one plays slide guitar like Uncle George.
Thorogood doffed his bandana and signature shades early on, tearing into The Sonics’ “Shot Down” on his black Gibson ES-125 with power and precision. There may be other guitarists out there capable of turning in more virtuosic solos, but few (if any) can match Thorogood (who doesn’t use a pick) when it comes to slide-guitar magic. Saxophonist Buddy Leach decorated The Strangeloves’ “Night Time” with a few tasty notes, then George ripped into Maverick (1985) mainstay “I Drink Alone” with his glass slide raking the strings. “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” was prefaced with Thorogood’s usual—but never dull—ramble about coming up short on rent (again). The gritty “Gear Jammer” gave Suhler time to sizzle over Simon and Blough’s robust rhythms.
3. A Destroyers concert is also a party.
Sure, Thorogood’s Rock Party 2018 may be named for a song on a twelve-year-old album (The Hard Stuff), but it’s true that every Destroyers outing has a carefree, New Year’s Eve-like atmosphere that gets tail feathers wagging…and blood alcohol levels rising. George delivered a “public service announcement” midway through the show (he suggested that you have your buddy—or your buddy’s girlfriend—do the driving), but he didn’t hold back when it came to flirting with the “hangover from hell.”
Thorogood’s light show is worth mentioning, too: The Hard Rock already has terrific house lights, but George brought along a set of six over-hanging square arrays that flashed, flickered, and spelled out words (like BONE, 40-GTD-40, etc.) on cue. Had the runway beacons and ILS system crashed at Hopkins Airport last night, Thorogood could’ve guided the 737s down with their blindingly bright arsenal.
4. B-B-B-“Bad to the Bone.”
Hard to believe “Bad to the Bone” is over 35-years old now, but the defiant ditty has held up remarkably well on FM radio, television, and at the movies (Terminator 2). Thorogood primed the audience with his 1993 get-a-job entry “Haircut,” then nosedived into the familiar, fist-pumping hit on a white ES-125 guitar (with cobra graphic). The audience was right there with him, too, chiming in on the “Wanna be yours, pretty baby…” verses and st-st-stuttering refrain.
5. “Move It On Over.”
Any guy who’s been in a long-term relationship with a woman knows what it’s like to be in the doghouse. And few rock songs have distilled that shameful sentiment into crunchy guitar chords and lighthearted lyrics as effectively as Hank Williams’ “Move It on Over.” Thorogood gave the tune a muscular makeover in 1978, and it is his version that rings with recognition to most people under age 50.
After a quick T-shirt change, George retook the stage to sing “Twenty Dollar Gig” into a handheld microphone—the night’s only selection on which he didn’t play guitar. Then the Wilmington, Delaware native motored into “Move It on Over” with his typical moxie - machismo. 1988 Destroyers offering “Born to Be Bad” saw George and the guys burning off the last ounces of gasoline.
“You’re never too old to rock and roll!” beamed Thorogood.