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Oldies But Goldies: Chuck Berry On New Year’s Eve, 2010


(This is the last time Chuck has played New York City. He fell ill a couple of days later and hasn’t been back since. It was a not untypical Chuck Berry Set and I wouldn’t surprised if we doesn’t perform here again -IL)

Chuck Berry is, well, Chuck Berry. And if he wants a hundred of my bucks I am happy to give it to him.. But this was theft. I don’t expect much from Chuck, he is 84 years old, but I expect him to be in tune.

I expect him to have some relation to tune.

To be able to make one song sound different to the other.

I feel guilty because Chuck Berry is as good a reason as any to write about music, and he is 84, and this was disgraceful. I’ve seen him suck before but not like this.

With a bass player looking terrified, a drummer dumbfounded and a keyboard player busy tuning Chuck’s guitar, every song is wronger than the one before. . You can’t tell the difference. Is it “Promised Land” or “Never Can Tell”.. Who knows? He changes his mind than he forgets the lyric.

I’ve lived in nyc since 1979 but this was my first trip to 42nd street on New Year’s Eve. It is purely insane,. Streets are condoned off, police and thieves are everywhere and you can’t get within a million miles of bb King’s if you haven’t camped out the day before or own a magic tix. At $100 it is pricey but nevertheless cool as heck because while people shove there way upwards you flash your tix and move sideways.

I got to bb kings at 745p and at 8p there, in sailors cap and glittery shirt, there was the great man. Just the way he always was, with no opening act and no knowledge of who or what his band were. And clang, rhythm power chords, 1,2,3, and off we go. But what is it? It could be anything and since he sings whatever lyric he feels like, it is still hard to figure what he is playing. Oh yeah, “Roll Over Beethoven’, “You Never Can Tell”, “Reeling And Rocking”, “Maybelline”…

OK, so it isn’t the great thing I’ve ever heard, it is still Chuck. Than he hands his axe to his keyboard player to be tuned and recites a poem. Not bad. Not good.

Than back to the, er, songs? “Johnny B. Goode”? Plus a duck walk? Awwww. that’s kinda cool right? “Ding A Ling” and this is getting really, really out of tune. And some blues and for no reason I can figure, I am being ghosted by Elmore James because hot on the heels of Helen asking me who he is, Berry covers “IT Hurts Me To” before sitting at the keyboards for “In The Wee Wee Hours”. I didn’t know he could play piano.

He asks for an audience request and we get “Nadine” before a “Carol” and, fuck me, that’s the man who wrote “Climb into my machine so we can cruise on out..” Another poem. It was an hour of so of messing about to no end. A shameful waste of time that had Chuck saying, “If I’m still alive wait for next year…”

Maybe so.

He is 84.

He is Chuck Berry.


And he is 84 years old.

Climb into my machine so we can cruise on out…

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