George Thorogood and the Destroyers: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; $50-$73; 941-263-6799; vanwezel.org
Over the group's four-decade career, George Thorogood and the Destroyers have been voracious tourers, even embarking on a 50/50 Tour of all 50 states over 50 nights in 1981. Now, after the pandemic largely put a halt to touring live entertainment last year, the band is back on the road again continuing its "Good to Be Bad Tour: 45 Years of Rock," including a stop at Sarasota's Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Tuesday.
Along with "Bad to the Bone," the Thorogood-penned title track to the band's 1982 album that's continued to appear in film and television throughout the following decades, the group is known for its rollicking renditions of blues and rock tunes such as "Who Do You Love?" and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer." Thorogood and the Destroyers are also renowned for their live shows, scoring a platinum album with 1986's "Live" and last year reissuing "Live in Boston 1982: The Complete Concert," recorded at the Bradford Ballroom.
In a Nov. 5 phone interview with the Herald-Tribune, Thorogood discussed returning to the road as well as memories throughout his career, including meeting Bob Dylan and the late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts while opening for the Stones in 1981. Here are excerpts.
Last year saw the reissue of “Live in Boston 1982: The Complete Concert.” What are your memories of that particular show?
To tell you the truth, it was tough for me to remember that show when people ask me, because I did three shows in the Boston area at that place that were all recorded. So to try to pin it down to what it was like is a little bit more difficult than you think. I do know we did one of them on our 50/50 Tour and had an outstanding turnout. You got to remember something: in those days, if you know anything about Boston, where the Bradford Hotel was, was right in the heart of the Combat Zone. That’s what they called the roughest area of Boston, even the cops don’t go down there. So when we drew those kinds of fans from all over the Boston area, that really showed me something, that really touched us. So we kept it safe and it went well. Then they said, “Well, why don’t we just release all the stuff?” I’m not going to say no to it; if you want to release my stuff, then please do it. (Laughs)
The year before that show, you and the Destroyers opened for the Rolling Stones. Of course, Charlie Watts sadly passed away earlier this year. Do you have any memories of Watts from your time performing with him?
How about this one; you ready? I was fortunate enough to meet the Rolling Stones before I ever saw them play. How do you like that? The first thing one of the Rolling Stones said to me, the very first thing, was one of the Rolling Stones walked up to me with my album and said, “George, may I have your autograph?” And it was Charlie Watts. Can you top that rock and roll story? I don’t think so!
You're also clearly a fan of Bob Dylan, having recorded "Wanted Man" and performing at his 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration. Have you gotten to meet him?
I've met Bob – I call him "bad Bob" – three times. The first time I met him, it was great; the second time I met him, it was fantastic; and the third time I talked to him was over-the-moon. That's my words on bad Bob Dylan, finest gentleman I've ever had the pleasure to talk to, and he was so respectful of me. I kept calling him "bad Bob," and I said, "Excuse me, Bob, I hope you don't mind if I use the word 'bad' because that's my one word." Bob Dylan has a million words, I have one word. He goes, "Well, you are the baddest." I went, "Did you hear that? Bob thinks I'm the baddest!" and he looks at me and goes, "Man, you're the worst." So I thought if Orson Welles can call Jackie Gleason The Great One, that Bob Dylan dubbed me the worst, I'll take it.
You've had Damon Fowler open for you often in recent years, including the upcoming Van Wezel show, and he hails from here in Florida. How did he come on your radar, and what has it been like playing with him?
Well, he came our way via Adam Conde, our manager, he handles those kind of things and brings those people to our attention. You know, like anything else, if it works out, you keep going; if the artist is happy and it's made enough money to make it work. Damon's a great guy, and a great player.
You and the Destroyers are known for being road warriors, all the way back to the 50/50 Tour days. What were the early days of the pandemic like for you when touring live music essentially came to a halt?
Well, putting aside what we do for a living, it was a terrible time; it still hasn’t eased up yet. The last thing I was thinking about was going out and playing, I was watching the news and people were dropping like flies all over the world. So it was very hard for me to concentrate on myself and say I’m missing all the action. I said, “This could destroy the planet.” So to me, it was a tough time; it still is a tough time. But as far as our having to postpone or reschedule our shows, I said well, so be it. You can’t have a rock concert unless you have a healthy planet.
Now that you're back on the road, how have the shows been so far?
It’s always fantastic to play, whatever the circumstances are, and this might have been a little bit extra due to the pandemic thing. We’ve played places where they did the social distancing, people wore masks. We didn’t want to do anything that was dangerous, and neither did the promoters or anyone else. So we kind of had to ease our way into it, and once we got rolling, it was fine. Who knows? Maybe music might cure the COVID. It cures a lot of other things, right?