Thorogood raises the roof

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By: Rob Williams

Updated: May 24 at 12:32 AM CDT

George Thorogood's feel-good blues-rock has always been the perfect soundtrack to sitting outside and having a few cold ones.

So on one of the first beautiful Fridays of the season in Winnipeg there were moments during the lengthy three-act show at the MTS Centre it would have been nice if the roof would have retracted to let in some of that sunshine, making it an even better experience for the 4,100 fans who gave up their patio seats for a chance to hang out with the Delaware Destroyer, acoustic blues legend Taj Mahal and gospel stalwarts the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Thorogood was the headliner and took to the bare stage with his arms in the air, wearing a bandana and sunglasses, greeting the crowd with a yell of "How sweet it is!" before he and his long-serving band The Destroyers ripped into the boogie-shaker Rock Party, setting the tone for the night.

Three decades of hits and covers followed with the radio staple Who Do You Love second on the set list, which got the crowd on its feet, where many of them stayed for the remainder of the 100-minute set for favourites like Get a Haircut, Bad to the Bone, Move It On Over and You Talk Too Much.

"Welcome to the rock party ladies and gentlemen. We're going to do some dirty things tonight. We're going to do some nasty things and we're going to do some very bad things. I will do everything in my power to get arrested tonight. If somebody's going to go to jail tonight it may as well be me," he announced before the groove-heavy jam The Fixer.

At 58, the Delaware-born guitar slinger shows no signs of slowing down: he strutted around the stage like his mentor Chuck Berry, pulled off some synchronized moves with his long serving four-piece band and ripped off solos effortlessly.

With more than 30 years stage experience Thorogood knows how to please his beer-drinking party-ready fans, and even better, it's not just some phony crowd-pleasing shtick -- he is genuinely honest and passionate about the music he loves and is enthusiastic about sharing it with the masses.

The wonderfully scuzzy I Drink Alone led into the iconic One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer, a John Lee Hooker cover he has made his own, even adding a don't drink and drive message to the 10-minute version Friday.

Where Thorogood injects a good deal of rock 'n' roll into his blues stew, Taj Mahal showed off his more traditional side during a slow-rolling 50-minute set that drew on Delta, Chicago and country blues.

The setlist was an abbreviated version of his trio's show at the Burton Cummings Theatre in 2006 with Checkin' up on My Baby, Annie Mae, Fishing Blues and Queen Bee all making it back two years later.

He even told the same anecdotes and used the same lines, most notably his dedication of Blues with a Feelin' to "the ladies that have critical mass in the back."

The talented and good-natured 66-year-old was in fine shape as he switched off between electric and acoustic guitars with the occasional stint on the keyboard; he even managed to engage the crowd in some call and response for the Blues is All Right.

The Blind Boys of Alabama started the night with a collection of joyful spirituals that made believers of the crowd who showed up early.

Making their third appearance in the city since 2005, the seven member vocal ensemble, led by septuagenarian founding member Jimmy Carter, put on an uplifting show, mixing contemporary funky gospel numbers with reworked versions traditional songs like the rousing Free At Last, which moved Carter to get off the stage and wander onto the arena floor guided by his guitarist.

They even managed to find some common ground with the classic rock lovers in the room with their version of Amazing Grace done in the style of House of the Rising Son.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

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This page contains a single entry by fountainhead published on June 1, 2008 11:10 PM.

Stephanie Netherton's In: George Thorogood, Gin Blossoms concerts bring back fond memories was the previous entry in this blog.

Thorogood has earned respect is the next entry in this blog.

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