Photographs by Stanley Johnson

George Thorogood certainly does know how to bludgeon the blues. Subtle, he ain’t.

george1But then again, the fans that packed into the Empire State Plaza Convention Hall last week for the final installment of the free Capital Concert Series weren’t looking for subtlety. It was a party, a beer-soaked, two-fisted drinking party, and 64-year-old Thorogood and his band the Destroyers provided the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am soundtrack from the opening volley of “Born to Be Bad” to the expected show-closing romp through “Bad to the Bone.”

Despite racks of flashy, computerized stage lights and not one, not two, but seven large video screens on stage, Thorogood & the Destroyers are still a bar band at heart – even after 40 years. With the band’s original drummer Jeff Simon still fueling the barroom blues ‘n’ boogie, the Destroyers ripped through selections from the songbags of rock pioneer Bo Diddley (“Who Do You Love?”), blues kingpin Elmore James (the encore of “Madison Blues”), ’60s garage-rockers the Strangeloves (“Night Time”) and country music legend Hank Williams (“Move It On Over”).

During his hour-and-a-half-plus set, Thorogood stepped up for a slide-guitar showcase in the middle of the on-the-road nugget “Gear Jammer.” And not surprisingly, it was the back-to-back pairing of his 80-proof alcohol anthems – “I Drink Alone” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” – that drew the loudest cheers of the night.

Courtesy - TimesUnion.com
By GREG HAYMES

ALBANY – You can take the band out of the bar, but you just can’t take the bar out of the band.

George Thorogood & the Destroyers took over the jam-packed Empire State Plaza Convention Hall on Wednesday evening after the rains forced the final show of the free Capital Concert Series indoors, and the band filled the stage with racks of flashy, computerized stage lights and not one, not two, but seven large video screens. But despite all of the high-tech equipment, the Destroyers are still your basic bar band, albeit with a shinier and more expensive stage set.

Not that there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, bandleader Thorogood wears the bar band designation proudly. He’s 64 years old now, and the Destroyers – born as the Delaware Destroyers and still featuring original drummer Jeff Simon – is celebrating their 40th anniversary, but the raspy-throated singer-guitarist hasn’t changed a lick from what he was doing four decades ago. It was your basic, beer-soaked barroom blues and boogie, and whether the source material came from rock pioneer Bo Diddley (“Who Do You Love?”), blues kingpin Elmore James (the encore of “Madison Blues”), ’60s garage-rockers the Strangeloves (“Night Time”) or country music legend Hank Williams (“Move It On Over”), it all sounded pretty much the same.

Sure, Thorogood stepped up for a slide-guitar showcase in the middle of the on-the-road nugget “Gear Jammer.” And not surprisingly his back-to-back alcohol anthems – “I Drink Alone” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” – drew the loudest cheers of the night. But otherwise it was meat ‘n’ potatoes, three-chord, bash-it-out blues-rock juiced up with a dash of good humor. If you were looking for subtlety, you were in the wrong place…

Fundamental things about George Thorogood, blues-rock showman: He prances about the stage copying cocky Jagger moves, he flirts relentlessly with ladies closest to the stage, and he knows how to pace a proper boisterous set. He also begins shows with the incantation “And away we go!”

Thorogood and his band The Destroyers, hard workers for the past four decades, played a rollicking Friday gig at Canalside, a very balmy and festive night. The crowd, first clinging to shady patches for a heat reprieve, continued to fill up the venue as the headliner was 30 minutes in, evidence perhaps that Buffalo’s blues crowd is accustomed to later club shows.

In his customary bandanna and sunglasses, Thorogood greeted the cheering crowd with “Born to be Bad,” from the 1980s – and a burst of spins, grins and finger-pointing. And then it was on to a rockabilly vibe with “Rock Party” before he and the incredible Destroyers slid into a slow, sexy rendition of 1950s Bo Diddley anthem (that he’s made one of his own) “Who Do You Love?” as projections of flames on screens behind each of the four band members licked away.

Courtesy QCTimes.com
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GT White BackGR"I'm under orders from the government not to divulge my location," George Thorogood deadpans when asked where he's calling from in a phone interview earlier this week.

The 64-year-old Delaware native is in his 40th anniversary year of recording, playing the blues onstage and even entertaining reporters.

As the headliner for this year's Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in downtown Davenport late on the Fourth of July, he talked about his influences and history.

You're here for a blues festival. Do you get to play blues festivals very often?

A few, but not lately. We've played a couple of blues festivals in Canada, California, various places. Europe, Finland. We've done jazz festivals.

I wanna play a rock festival. That's one thing I don't have the chance to do. I don't play jazz, I don't play blues. I don't get it.

But obviously the blues has had a lot of influence on you.

Pretty much anybody who's recorded before 1975, the blues must have touched them in one way or another. We started out as a blues band because there was no rock 'n' roll. Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry started the whole thing, and that's what we listened to.

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