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George Thorogood, 40 Years Strong, takes Atlanta's Center Stage by storm

George Thorogood and the Destroyers came into Atlanta on Tuesday night for his “40 Years Strong” tour and treated a packed Center Stage of more than 1,000 fans to about 95 minutes of hard driving rock and roll straight from his catalog of timeless hits.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers live at Center Stage in Atlanta
Photography by Andrew Snook

Throughout his career Thorogood has combined his own great music with his take on some of the greatest and most distinctive blues songs of the twentieth century. It comes as no surprise then, that his set list for Atlanta was comprised of his own music; “I Drink Alone” and “Bad to the Bone” and others, interspersed with covers of songs that have been so indelibly stamped with his rock and roll identity that classics like “Who Do You Love”, originally by Bo Diddly and “One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer” by John Lee Hooker are seen as Thorogood staples.

Each cover version is distinctively his, courtesy of his slide guitar while respecting its blues or country heritage and so it was on Tuesday night.

It might be 40 years since he recorded his first demo tape but his music is as timeless and his versions of many of those songs (some of which are considerably older) that have become his standards are as fresh as they have ever been. It’s an indicator of the quality and substance of the music that it comes across so well.

From the opening bars of “Rock Party” to the final strains of “Madison Blues” as the encore George Thorogood was constantly moving across the stage all the while putting his Gibson guitars through their paces creating the sound that is his and his alone.

Add his rasping voice to the guitar and the crowd is treated to something that is rock and roll at its purest. It’s not overly produced, it doesn’t rely on over-dubbing of pre-recorded backing tracks nor does it provide over the top light shows to distract those watching!

It’s just Thorogood and his band; Jeff Simon on drums, Billy Blough on bass, Jim Suhler on rhythm guitar and Buddy Leach on saxophone on a stripped down stage lit by red, blue and orange lights with white spotlights. As the set progresses there are notes and beats that are missed as the performance gets looser but it’s just brilliant the way it is and it’s just perfect in a smaller venue like Center Stage.

It’s pretty apparent pretty quickly that George Thorogood enjoys what he does for a living. While most of the interaction between Thorogood and the fans between songs has been used for years, it really doesn’t matter; he plays up his “Bad To The Bone” persona with aviator lenses and the bandana suggesting that the Destroyers are out on 24-hour parole just for this concert. He revels in the fact that he has a job where drinking is encouraged. While the “schtick” might be well-worn it works well with the crowd because of his music and his on-stage persona.

Highlights of the show obviously included any time Thorogood decided to play slide guitar but also involved Buddy Leach on saxophone as he was was just brilliant during “20 Dollar Gig”.

If you like your rock and roll stripped down to its bare-bones, raw and meaty, then George Thorogood is just for you. It's not always a smooth ride and it's definitely not sophisticated (despite his arguments to the contrary before "20 Dollar Gig") but it leaves you completely satisfied in a kind of dirty way, just the way rock and roll is supposed to be!

40 Years Strong? Yes it is! I'd like "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer to celebrate!

Set List

Rock Party 

Who Do You Love? 
(Bo Diddley cover)
The Fixer
Night Time 
(The Strangeloves cover)
I Drink Alone 

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer 
(John Lee Hooker cover)

Cocaine Blues 
(Johnny Cash cover)

Get A Haircut


Gear Jammer 

Move It On Over 
(Hank Williams cover)

20 Dollar Gig 


Bad to the Bone


Encore:


Madison Blues 
(Elmore James cover)