Zack Hillman

George Thorogood @ House of Blues – Anaheim 10/3/2012

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George Thorogood and the Destroyers perform at the House of Blues in Anaheim, CA on October 3, 2012
© Copyright Chris Loomis

Are you familiar with the adage that you definitely don’t want to be the person at a concert wearing a t-shirt of the band you’re about to see? Apparently, the opposite is true in the case of George Thorogood fans… It’s seems like a prerequisite. In fact, I’ve never seen so many George Thorogood shirts in one place (or at all, come to think of it) until he rocked the House of Blues in Anaheim this Wednesday.

Thorogood is a larger-than-life character, constantly turning to the audience for applause and encouraging them to sing-along to the choruses. As you might imagine, there’s a number of times when this comes up, since he goes over all his beloved favorites. The band took the stage amidst stadium style digital graphics displays, showing pictures of Thorogood in his prime or riding a Harley depending on which song was playing. If this all sounds like gimmicky fun, you’re on the right track. But it’s a hell of a lot of gimmicky fun!

Opener Mike Eldred Trio kicked off the night with a searing, tight set of originals and classics in a rockabilly, blues-rock vein entirely appropriate for a Thorogood crowd. Mike Eldred (vocals/guitar) is a very comfortable, interpersonal performer, his honest and self-deprecating comments endearing him to the audience. It doesn’t hurt that he burns on the fretboard, tossing off Scotty Moore and Joe Perry riffs like nobody’s business.  John Bazz (bass) and Jerry Angel (drums) round out this ultra tight trio, taking no prisoners as they hammer down the rhythm under Eldred’s solos.

Then, Mr. Thorogood took the stage to much fanfare and ruckus. He asked the audience if they wanted to have a rock party, then accordingly played “Rock Party,” trading off solos with rhythm guitarist Jim Suhler. With their trademark revved-up blues, the Destroyers don’t really have too many parallels in playing raucous party anthems back to back to back.

Of course, the old favorites will always make the fans the happiest. Thorogood is pretty crafty about breaking up his songs into the perennial hits and then the deeper cuts for the more hardcore fans. One such deluge of hits came when he played “I Drink Alone,” “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” and “The Sky is Crying” all in a row. The sequencing was heavy on guitar heroics and vocal hooks simultaneously, keeping the audience dancing to the rhythm.

He saved his best block for last, though. The four-song sequence started off with “Bad to the Bone” and “Move It On Over,” probably Thorogood’s most memorable hits. These songs also have George’s most memorable solos, and, indeed, he plays most brilliantly on these gems. Saxophonist Buddy Leach also got a chance to showcase his chops on the iconic sax solo of “Bad To the Bone.” Thorogood briefly left the stage while Suhler played an extended Ace Frehley-inspired solo that left the audience floored. Thorogood came back out (sans guitar) to sing “Taildragger” while the band backed him up and let him strut around the stage. He ended the night with “Madison Blues,” another fan-favorite, trading off more dual leads with Suhler until a sweaty, packed house couldn’t take anymore.

Thorogood has a way with the audience, knowing when to bait their attention, often stepping out toward the audience in the middle of his solos. As stated earlier, his stage presence is grandiose—yet it never seems pompous. In fact, GT comes off as a really grateful guy. (He must have thanked his southern California fans about five times for their continued support.) So, even tough Thorogood acts as if he’s “the chosen one,” he seems to never forget where that power comes from. Also, along with the magnitude of his persona, he seems always to invite his supporters to join him, to live vicariously through his stage persona. The end message is, that the answer to feeling like a king is acting like one; that a good “Rock Party” every once in a while will make your life a whole hell of a lot more fun. George Thorogood and the Destroyers are currently touring for their album 2120 South Michigan Avenue, and tickets are available at livenation.com.

Setlist: Rock Party| Who Do You Love?| Can’t Stop Lovin’| Night Time| I Drink Alone| One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer| The Sky is Crying| Get a Haircut| Bad to the Bone| Move It On Over| Jim Suhler Guitar Solo| Taildragger| Madison Blues

All photos: © Copyright Chris Loomis

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