George Thorogood is a liar. Early in his 95 minute set on Saturday night, March 1, 2014 at the Talking Stick Resort Showroom in Scottsdale, Thorogood sang “ when I drink alone I prefer to be by myself.” Judging from the fun Thorogood and his kick ass band The Destroyers seemed to be having on stage in front of the sold out crowd, Thorogood neither drinks alone nor prefers to be by himself.
Saturday night was the third stop on George Thorogood and the Destroyers 40 Years and Strong tour. There is no lie as to the tour’s moniker. Although it’s hard to believe that Thorogood has been doing this for forty years, he and his band do remain as strong as ever.
The Showroom at Talking Stick Resort was the perfect setting to see Thorogood. Although George Thorogood and the Destroyers have played their share of stadiums over the years, their rhythm and blues style is best seen in an intimate setting. Yet, despite the smaller room, (it seats about 650 people), the staging was big time. The lighting was beyond that normally seen in The Showroom and the seven video screens dispersed around the stage added to but never distracted from the performance.
But fans don’t come to see whether George Thorogood and Jeff Simon on drums, Bill Blough on bass, Jim Suhler on rhythm guitar and Buddy Leach on saxophone can outdo the stage effects. They come to hear Thorogood growl and play a mean slide guitar while backed by a solid rhythm and blues band. No one left disappointed.
The typical Scottsdale classic rock crowd, i.e. over forty and laid back, took their time letting loose, preferring to remain seated during Thorogood’s upbeat tempo, opening number. But Thorogood was already at full throttle, whipping off his sun glasses and delivering one of the night’s many blazing guitar solos.
A few got up and danced to “Who Do You Love?” as Thorogood did some tongue wagging and his two handed thrust forward, pull back quickly guitar move. Thorogood, in a recent interview stated that his vocals are better now than they used to be. Again, he was telling the truth.
“Night Time” had people clapping to its hypnotic beat and more than a few heads were bobbing along. A slight change to the lyrics at the end, “I wanna be with you, and your girlfriend too,” was an omen that bad boy George was about to come out.
The bump and grind feel of “I Drink Alone” finally got those seated, up and swaying. The audience’s knowledge of the lyrics was evident as they loudly sang along.
As Thorogood tore through the opening narrative of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer’ faster than an auctioneer selling an autographed George Thorogood Gibson ES-125 guitar, his voice almost compelled you to want to be bad. From that point on, any drink you ordered better not have been wine and your choice of beer had to be domestic rather than some fancy import.
The remainder of the set was a mixture of the better known George Thorogood songs, “Get A Haircut,” “Move It On Over,” and lesser known ones, “Gear Jammer,” “Twenty Dollar Gig.” Throughout, Thorogood impressed with his slide guitar work, although for Twenty Dollar Gig, Thorogood put aside his guitar and did vocals only. Perhaps Thorogood’s time spent in opening for the Rolling Stones rubbed off as he showed a couple of Jagger moves during the song.
Fairly or not, the song that defines George Thorogood is “Bad to the Bone” which closed the main set. Certainly it was the crowd’s favorite. The video screens showed snippets from the 1982 video of the song, including George’s pool hall show down with Bo Diddley. It was a reminder of a time when everyone looked much younger, but that if you are bad enough, you never age. Those in the audience up clapping, dancing and singing along plus the five musicians on stage certainly had not.
As an encore, a red hot version of “Madison Blues” closed the night. Given the atmosphere of the evening, one expected to hear “last call,” after the band exited the stage. But George did come out one last time to slap hands with those who had remained behind in the front row. Only when he was covered with his cape, ala James Brown, did you know it was over.
George Thorogood and the Destroyers have been described as the “World’s Greatest Bar Band.” Again, no lie there. If you bring the bourbon, scotch and beer, George Thorogood and the Destroyers will bring the music and the attitude. Just don’t let George drink alone. He’s lying if he says he prefers it.