George Thorogood and the Destroyers rolled into B.B. King’s in Times Square last night, playing a rocking set full of bluesy riffs and classic hits for a packed-in crowd.
B.B. King’s is one of the only local concert venues to regularly put out tables alongside their booths, encouraging fans to eat and drink while enjoying the show, and so it was a lively but seated dinner crowd that greeted one of the better known hard blues bands when they sauntered on stage at 9pm sharp. But sitting and eating in no way sapped the crowd of energy, and frontman Thorogood brought plenty of his own energetic magic as well.
Thorogood’s guitar playing is soulful from its blues roots, but at the same time aggressive and wicked in its hooks and licks. Backed by the Destroyers, which includes saxaphonist Buddy Leach adding trills of brass into the sound mix, the night’s songs injected a heavy dose of dirty, sleazy rock n’ roll into the underground venue. Opening songs Sweet Little Rock and Roller and Who Do You Love saw the singer winking at women in the audience and gyrating his hips aggressively, 60 years of age clearly doing nothing to calm his libido.
The night quickly picked up with the back-to-back drinking odes in I Drink Alone and One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, with fans jumping up and singing along to the radio and dive bar staples, probably two of Thorogood’s most popular songs, which he punctuated with a reminder not to drink and drive. Dozens of licks and riffs later, the energy jumped up several more notches with the iconic Bad To The Bone, arguably one of the most famous riffs in all of rock and roll, and the band drew it out with both guitar and sax solos, the audience wildly singing along the whole time to the song which has introduced Hollywood bad boys from Major Payne to the Terminator.
It wasn’t just the energy of the songs that make Thorogood and the Destroyers such a quality show, it was the smaller, personal touches as well. The frontman swaggered about the stage, talking to fans sitting up front and even kissing the hand of one young woman. He stepped into the audience, guitar in hand, as he played through Get A Haircut, and had no problem playing literally right in the faces of some lucky fans. On the flip side of the audience interaction, however, was his personal head of security, a large, belligerent man who spent most of the show aggressively forcing people to shut off any video they might have been taking on their cameras and ejecting at least one patron, in a ruder and more abrasive fashion than this Examiner has ever witnessed over hundreds of concerts in virtually every New York venue.
For those not harassed, though, Thorogood delivered a solid hour and a half of thrilling rock n’ roll. He projected everything which defines the blues and rock and roll – confidence and swagger, hedonism and lust. His stage presence spoke just as loudly as his guitar chords, and locked in with his band, drove audience members to their feet with brash solos and deeply bent notes. Moms climbed up to grind atop the booths, fathers pumped their fists, and even an old bearded men danced furiously by the bar, all driven by the raw power and kick of the Destroyers.
Last night’s show was an inspiring change of pace for those of us more accustomed to modern rock shows, where carefully designed bands play whatever record executives think will sell best. Thorogood’s wild solos, snarky delivery, and heavy use of cover songs makes him more akin to Buddy Guy than Bad Company, and projects an aura of genuine authenticity that few frontmen have anymore.
The band returns for a second performance at B.B. King’s tonight, but if you want a good seat, be sure to get there early as fans will no doubt pack the place just as full as last night. As always, stay tuned to the Hard Rock Examiner for further information on tickets and all local rock and heavy metal news by subscribing at the top of this page, or follow me at twitter.com/NYROCKEXAMINER.