The band opened with Goodbye Johnnie B Good amid a few
sound problems again from the surprisingly incompetent BB King staff (more on this
later), Honey Don't followed and then Big Boss Man, Happy Birthday Jim (what a surprise - thanks to Kay for arranging this - she is absolutely the best!), and Sick and Tired. The band was in good form and really cooking when Jerry Lee walked out.
He was dressed in a double purple striped white shirt, jeans, and short brown boots. Oh yeah, cool looking dark sunglasses too! Jerry later
explained that he didn't like to wear sun glasses but that he had just had some eye surgery and was required to wear these for a while. He also admitted to feeling not so good. As ripped into Roll Over Beethoven you sure couldn't tell he wasn't feeling well. He was clearly on his game tonight - good strong voice, lots of energy, great start. They were to be continually interrupted at the beginning of the show by the inept technical people who couldn't fix the sound. BB couldn't hear anything coming out from the system behind him; no one could hear the piano except those of us in the front row; and there was strange feedback as they tried to correct it.
Jerry Lee explained to the audience that when they tried to pick up the piano it caused feedback and a lot of squealing (small digital Yamaha -
what - no Baldwin!??!). He further explained that he hated squealing from a piano more than from a woman - he could take it from a squealing woman but not a squealing piano. Finally he yelled at the guy trying to fix it to leave it alone - it would only get worse. So they basically ignored the problem, played around it and actually put on a great show. I was already happy anyway since the band played Happy Birthday for me - but it did actually get a lot better.
I know this one is out of order but Sweet Little Sixteen was also great.
Jerry finished a hot version and said to Kenny "that one is on the album too", with a certain self-satisfied air.
You Win Again ended with a remark about Hank getting on
his knees and saying that to his woman. It was a good version of this regular classic. I Don't Want To Be Lonely Tonight was another good version with some
crafty voice modulations. Before The Night Is Over (my wife's favorite) was spot on with more old time Jerry Lee style voicing, especially on the word "love". You Belong To Me was my favorite of the night; he had the feeling locked in for this one. I don't remember the sequence for Headstone; it might have been second or third on the list. I didn't keep good track since I was trying to enjoy the show, film it and remember it all at the same time - too much for my old brain. Headstone was classic with the up-tempo change in the middle. The end flamed out though without the usual "I want a monument!" as Jerry Lee was rightly annoyed with the sound situation. He did not take it out on the audience though, as he played on in good spirits and had some nice interactions with the fans. He even took the time to sign a painting of himself for one of the fans who showed it to him and the audience. Jerry Lee noted: "that looks like him alright".
Jerry Lee thought for a minute before deciding to play
Wine-Spo-Dee-O-Dee and it was worth the wait. Even with the bad piano sound he got some nice solo runs into this, as he had with many of the others. The first chords of Great Balls Of Fire came along way too soon as always, but the sold out house (all standing room tickets were sold too) sang along to all the words and got to their feet in appreciation. Whole Lot Of Shakin' likewise got to the audience and off he went. No foot on the piano, no kicking the stool, a brief stumble over the equipment, due to the dark glasses most likely, smiles and waves and more memories for a grateful audience. On the way out it was wonderful to hear all the people marveling at what a great show he put on. I agree.
In addition to the obvious delights from my review, some of
you may be interested in the pre-show encounter I had with the band (the nicest and most accomodating guys you could ever hope to meet in a
nightclub). As I walked into the Band room the guys (Buck, B.B., Kenny, and Robert) were just talking and getting their gear ready. I announced that I was the Word Police and was there to check on their language. Instantly, they fell right in with the gag and with their hands partly covering their mouths, started mumbling, "Oh shi**, the word police", "We better watch our fu***** language", "Oh darn, we've been caught", etc. It was pretty funny and a clear demonstration of how bright and quick witted these men are in addition to being great musicians. They then introduced themselves and shook hands and I left quickly to let them get ready for the show.
About 15 or 20 of us got together after the show and Elliott Ricci wowed
us again with his playing and singing in a piano restaurant that we went to. It's too bad the paid piano player (Billy Joel imitator) took his piano back before Don or Sebastian or some of the other good piano players had a chance. As always at these events, the fans are some of the most wonderful people you could spend an evening with - I appreciate all of you.
Support act Jack Grace
went onstage at 7.15 pm, and he did alright. He had his wife on electric bass, a man on the drums and one on steel guitar; he himself was playing the guitar. It was a kind of modern country band – for a support act they did fine: most were slightly upbeat to very upbeat country-like songs. Half way in his act, he said it was a great honor to be opening for “an American treasure: Jerry Lee Lewis”.
It must have been 8 pm
when the Killer Band went on, maybe earlier. It took some time to check the sound, and while checking it, they didn’t look very happy. In the end B.B. kneeled down to talk with people on the first row, Buck was looking into the audience for familiar faces (I was one of the persons he recognized), and Kenny was looking rather discouraged by the sound, while Robert was putting his drum kit in the right position.
After some time they decided to start with their songs. B.B. opened with
‘Bye, Bye Johnny B. Goode’, which was a good version. He has a really nice voice. Kenny explained after the song that he himself wasn’t feeling well enough to sing, while behind him some soundmen were walking on and off. J.W. appeared a few times as well, wearing black sunglasses. Kenny had received a little note from the audience before B.B.’s song, and now he obviously decided to make use of that proposal: singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the man with the best seat in the venue, Jim McKenna. Jim himself hadn’t expected it. He looked surprised, and very happy with the song. After the song, the audience wasn’t only applauding for Kenny, but also for Jim, with ‘happy birthday’ cheering from various places in the place.
In between all of the band’s songs, soundmen were appearing and disappearing, but the sound remained the same, though not too bad where
I was sitting. The bass was quite a bit louder than at previous shows, but that was all. Robert sang ‘Honey Don’t’, with that great swinging beat as he always does. During this song I noticed that Buck is growing a beard, and Robert too (a goatee). I must say that in my opinion they looked much younger without beards. Buck did ‘Big Boss Man’, my least favorite of his assortment, but this time I liked it quite a lot. Again, the band had a fabulous beat in it. Every time I see them, I’m amazed at their beat. To me, they’re the Memphis Beats, more than the Killer Band. J.W. said something to Buck, who passed it on to Kenny, who said they had to wait a little longer, and B.B. played another song, which turned out to be a cool version of ‘Sick And Tired’.
It was not Kenny to announce Jerry Lee Lewis this
time, but the Rickrocker, of the American
radio station Sirius. Jerry Lee walked onstage, looking great, with wavy hair, a long-sleeved shirt with vertical pink lines, the sleeves rolled up a bit, dark jeans, and brown boots with a dark greenish shade. And sunglasses in the same style as J.W.: black as soot, or even darker. Yet, he seemed to see everything well, as he walked straight to the piano without hesitation over the small stage, while looking and smiling into the audience. As he sat down at the small Yamaha digital piano, he received a rose from someone in the audience, which he laid on the piano, singing, “You’re the one rose, that’s left in my heart.”
He launched into ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, starting the rock and roll song with only his left hand (previously, I had only seen him kick off with a fast two-handed
boogie). His left hand was rocking harder than I had ever seen before, even more than in Paris 2006, and it remained that way for the rest of the show. Great! His vocals were very
well, also throughout the whole show. However, now I noticed what was wrong with the sound. The bass and both guitars were too loud compared to the piano and Jerry Lee’s vocals. (However, as a whole the sound was not too loud; the bass was not that loud that it makes your stomach roll over, as is all too often the case with modern bands and high school bands.) Near the end of the song Jerry’s microphone was corrected and his voice was loud enough, but the piano was still not loud enough. Where I was seated, in the middle in front of the piano, it was alright, but I heard that to the sides of the place the piano was hardly audible. ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ was not much of an extended version: two piano solos and one guitar solo in total. The piano playing was great throughout, with a whole series of two-handed glissandi!
“I don’t like wearing these sunshades, but I had eye surgery yesterday, and the doctor told me I should wear them, and of course I gotta do what the doctor says. Even
though that would be the first time in my life I do what the doctor says.”
He played a bluesy lick on the piano, rolling into ‘No Headstone On My Grave’. This was a long
version, and very beautiful. The first slow
part featured an amazing piano solo with only his middle fingers, a thrilling guitar solo by Buck, and another “Mama don’t you cry”-verse. The fast part was really rocking with more really great piano playing and a guitar solo. The second slow part had half a piano solo – halfway Jerry Lee continued playing a bit with his right hand, while adjusting the sound, asking, “Can ya hear the piano?” And then, grinning, something like, “Do you wanna hear the piano?” Everybody wanted more piano, some calling loudly for “more piano in the house!” Jerry played another full piano solo, and then abruptly ending the song. He didn’t say he expected a monument, but even through those sunglasses, behind which nothing could be seen, one could tell that his eyes were twinkling in a way that the soundmen definitely did not deserve a monument.
“I’d like to have the piano louder, but I can’t turn it louder without
gettin’ feedback. And I hate a squealin’ piano even more than I hate a squealin’ woman. I can take a squealin’ woman… as long as she’s nicely shaped.” (He indicated with his hands what she should look like.) “And that for someone my age,” he added, chuckling.
The third song was ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, a very powerful version
of the song, as usual much better than the duet with Ringo. Many piano solos during the whole show were followed by great applause, and the first one here was one of them. He ended the song with a series of glissandi with both hands, and with a big smile on his face.
“I think that one’s on the album as well,” he said after the song with a
smile. During the song he had a lot of eye contact with B.B., whose smile got bigger and bigger all the time, and even though I heard he couldn’t hear anything coming out of the monitor behind him, he never lost his way in the songs. One of the long-haired soundmen sneaked up to B.B. from behind, fiddling a bit on B.B.’s monitor, and all the time Jerry was looking sharply at him. Everybody was quiet, until Jerry finally said: “Leave that thing alone back there!” which led to lots of laughing and applause, and the soundman’s drawing back.
The only country song of the evening was ‘You Win Again’. Without
a shadow of a doubt on my mind the best version I’ve heard him do. The other times he was struggling with his vocals, but everything was perfect this time. The piano playing was also very powerful. It isn’t that difficult to find the notes he’s playing in the first ‘line’ of the solo, but the way he plays it… more beautifully (and at the same time so powerful) than anyone else can ever dream of playing. The audience cheered when he sang, “You’ve been seen out here in New York City, runnin’ ‘round.” He ended the song with Hank Williams on his bended knee. This was the first time I didn’t stand up after a song to applaud; not because I didn’t want to, but there is too little room to stand up without knocking your chair to the person on the table next to yours, and without standing in the view of the people behind you. Even though everybody clearly enjoyed the show very much, nobody stood up before ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ ended.
“Let’s do some rock and roll now,” Jerry said. He waited a little for the enthusiastic yelling had faded, and played ‘Don’t Want To Be Lonely Tonight’. Man, this
was cooking and burning. It was fast, but not too fast, and the piano and guitar playing was amazing. Jerry Lee played lots and lots of piano; it was a very long version. He even
refrain (“Lightning is flashing…”) as a full piano solo, something he hardly ever does. There were also a few guitar solos, including a double one. Buck had a solo, and he was just about losing his legs, shaking and jumping while playing some mighty great rock and roll. Every time it’s so beautiful to see him live his guitar solos, rather than just playing them. The song was so great; near the end of the song he even sang the refrain full power and playing a piano solo during the first half of it at the same time. I couldn’t remain on my chair when it was finished, and a few other people stood up as well, but still most people didn’t, even though the applause was huge.
As if this song wasn’t breathtaking at all, he listened to Robert suggestion, said “I don’t think we have done that one yet,” and played ‘Before The Night Is Over’. I
think it had a more swinging beat in it than the other times I heard him play it. Perhaps he and the band don’t change their way of playing the song much, technically, but each
hear it, it sounds as if the feeling put into it is a bit different. Jerry’s vocals were very clear, and on the “L-O-V-E Love”-ending, his voice didn’t drop. “This eye surgery makes one feel bad,” he said. If he hadn’t explicitly said so, no one would have guessed he felt less than very well.
The seventh song was a slower song: ‘You Belong To Me’. Very nice. Good singing, nice piano playing, some solos that were new to my ears, and Kenny’s guitar solo
featured more flat notes than at other times. I noticed on the video screens on both sides of the stage that Jerry Lee has his right little finger pointed towards the audience a
great deal of the time, like his right leg, so that he uses only four fingers of his right hand for some piano solos. Still, those solos are very pretty, covering usually
four octaves. Personally, I was thinking of ‘Don’t Want To Be Lonely Tonight’ again, I was still too amazed about that to thoroughly enjoy ‘You Belong To Me’.
When the song
was finished, someone from the audience held up a large portrait of Jerry Lee during his Sun years, and a big felt-tip pen.
Although it was behind Jerry, he noticed, and turned around. “That’s him, alright,” he said. “Rockin’ Jerry Lee.” He smiled and the audience applauded. He turned back to the piano, and then turned around again, looking at the portrait, and said, “What am I supposed to do with it?” Of course he had noticed that big pen, but he was just teasing the man, and he signed it. The man showed the painting to the audience, while Jerry turned back to his piano, grinning, “I wonder what he’s gonna do with it now.”
He played a chord, and looked at B.B. Everybody was silent. “What song
shall we do now?” I shouted out “Hadacol Boogie!” just before other people started shouting requests. Jerry started playing ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee O-Dee’ instead. (Virginia,
who was sitting at the other
side of the table, opposite of me, laughed. Before the show I had told her that, when Kay introduced me to Jerry in his dressing room, I asked Jerry if he would play ‘Hadacol Boogie’, and that Jerry said that the last time he’d tried to do it, he mixed it up with ‘Wine Spo-Dee O-Dee’.) This was another great version, and while playing the ‘rockinest’ piano solos and letting Kenny and Buck have guitar solos and a double one, he smiled a lot, and a couple of times he looked at me with a playful smile.
After the eighth song, Kenny whispered to Jerry Lee that it was about time for the finale, so Jerry went into ‘Great Balls Of Fire’,
the full movie version, and even further extended. For the last piano solo, he kept bashing on the high notes for three full rounds, smiling more and more, eventually ending it with “Goodness, gracious, Great balls Of Fire!” This was by far the most exciting version I’ve heard him play, and also the first time I’ve heard him play the extended version (even though it was an extended-extended version).
He ended the show with ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’, which was a
fine version. Sadly, everybody remained seated, and I guess he would have extended this one too, if everybody had jumped up as in Paris last year. Still, it was a slightly unusual version, as he left Kenny’s guitar break out during the first half. In the ‘easy’-part, he played two or four times some kind of a very fast scale within one octave in the duration of only one beat, I think he used to do that quite often in the 1982-’85 period. After the ‘one little spot’-part he said: “Take you break now, Kenny,” with a big grin, and immediately Kenny played his solo. Jerry followed with a piano solo, and then “Shake it, baby, shake it” for one verse, and finishing the song. Right after it was finished the band played the exit music, Jerry Lee stood up, and walked off the stage, waving and trying to find a way through all the cables and monitors, accompanied by the second standing ovation (the first one was after ‘Great Balls Of Fire’). It looked like this powerful show of fifty minutes (as I was told) hadn’t exhausted him one bit; he left the stage as fit and cheerfully as he had entered.
Great show, by good ol’ Rockin’ Jerry Lee!