Live Gig Review and Photos by: Robert Cavuoto
It turned out to be a beautiful evening at the Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ on Friday, July 28th for the 2017 QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning. On tap for tonight’s headline performance was none other than the bad boy, George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
With a weather prediction of scattered showers for most of the weekend, the clouds managed to part for George and the Destroyers to perform a high-octane 75+ minute show.
In the 1980s George had a huge impact on music and the culture of rock n’ roll with a string of gold albums like Bad to the Bone (1982), Maverick (1985), and Born to be Bad (1988); going on to sell 15 million records worldwide and performing 8,000 live shows.
George and his band took the stage at 8:00 pm as the last colorful hot air balloon drifted off into the murky sky. From the first song, “Rock Party;” George came alive, interacting with the audience, and throwing out funny one-liners like “Hot Damn Here I Am.” At one point he cracked himself up by saying, “I’m so full of shit even I don’t believe me,” referring to a comment he made about not drinking and driving – “Consider this a free public service announcement!” He delivered the goods throwing himself into his performance and having the time of his life. The audience recognized it as they were standing on their feet the entire show.
George’s signature guitar tone was set to “roof-rattling crunch” with some raw distortion for good measure. His bluesy guitar solos and extended jams garnered everyone’s attention through the night. He made his guitar scream and moan as he beat it into submission for each rockin’ song; it was as if it was an extension of his arms and hands. He used only two Gibson guitars the entire night and wielded them with such natural ease. Towards the end of the night, he pulled out the slide to crush it on “Gear Jammer.” The Destroyers consisting of Jeff Simon on drums, Bill Blough on bass, Jim Suhler on guitar, and Buddy Leach on saxophone did a stellar job and were not afraid to turn George loose on the audience allowing him to soar.
He sang the blues with sincerity and passion and seemed to feel every word sung. With a devilish twinkle in his eye the entire night he performed a nice mix of his hits like “I Drink Alone,” “Get a Haircut,” and “Gear Jammer” coupled with some of the cover tunes that he and his band made their own like; “Who do you Love” written by Bo Diddley, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” written by John Lee Hooker and “Move it on Over” by Hank Williams. The song that brought down the house as expected was “Bad to the Bone”.
I had the chance to speak with George prior to the show and asked him about his choices in picking iconic drinking songs and how they continue to be so timeless. He told me “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” was an iconic song laying in waiting; if I didn’t do it somebody else would have grabbed it.”
With nothing but a stripped down stage, he brought it home with this show and made it entertaining and fun. The sound radiating from the band was spot on. It was as though I was listening to their CD at a high volume. The wide open stage provided George and the band plenty of room to entertain all sides of the crowd.
After Saturday night’s show, I think most in attendance could agree George still embraces the fun and excitement he always did. He is an amazing frontman, ring leader, and party host for his Rock Party Tour. George and the Destroyers put their stamp on what will no doubt be a memorable weekend for the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning that people will talk about for years to come.
Also on August 4th, George will be releasing his first ever solo CD; Party of One, a dynamic and impressive acoustic CD where George is re-exploring his roots and paying a personal tribute to all the iconic artists that inspired his career.