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Reviews 2003 - 2004

Reno Gazette-Journal / Oct 26th, 2004:

Review: Short set but classic rock from Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry and The Original Comets

Silver Legacy Casino / Reno / Nevada

October 23 / 2004

By Ryan Randazzo

Renoites got a lesson in rock'n'roll history Saturday from Chuck Berry and Bill Haley’s Original Comets, some of the artists who built the music’s foundations.

The show at the Silver Legacy reminded the crowd why the performers are legends, and with the youngest of the musicians being 70 (Berry’s backup musicians excluded), showed they maintain some of the verve that made them stars some 50 years ago.

Highlights of Berry’s 12-song set included opening with a rumbling version of “Roll Over Beethoven.” When his set was interrupted by a problem with an amp, he slowed things down with a tribute to Ray Charles. “I’m blowing from both sides now,” he said after getting the problem fixed.

Berry’s perfectionist side showed up often, as he couldn’t get through a song without instructing the bassist, pianist or drummer how to play it right. He also couldn’t seem to get his guitar tuned properly.

He finished with crowd pleasers such as “Memphis,” “Sweet Little 16,” and cornball favorite “My Ding A Ling.”

During his final song, he invited women onstage to dance. One picked up two Coronas and began to spill them all over herself. Berry didn’t seem to mind as he put an arm around her and kept playing.

Berry then unplugged his guitar and walked offstage with a wave as his band finished the song.

While he didn’t play his breakthrough “Maybellene,” or a few other classics, it was worth the ticket price to see a legend play, dance his trademark duck walk, and bring the house to its feet after almost every song. Anyone complaining about the short set or technical problems need only consider what 78-year-olds they know who can do better.

“Who says you gotta be young to rock,” Comets frontman Marshall Lytle said during their set before Berry.

The band’s original frontman died in 1981. His bandmates tour with many of the same songs that launched their careers with Lytle, 71, singing most and playing upright bass.

Their set included “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” “See You Later Alligator,” and other rockabilly originals, including their signature “Rock Around the Clock.” The band is proud of their ages, and why not? Guitarist Franny Beecher is 83, drummer Dick Richards 80, keyboardist Johnny Grande 74, and saxophone player Joey Ambrose 70.

Their aggressive beats have changed little. During an instrumental, Lytle played his bass over his shoulder, guitar-style on his knee, on its side with him atop, between his legs and on his back holding it with his feet.

Lytle filled in with stories about playing Reno’s former Golden Hotel and how Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed popularized the phrase rock ’n’ roll while playing their song “Rock the Joint,” on the air and shouting “rock ’n’ roll!” with the microphone left on accidentally.

Their songs no longer top the charts, but watching them play at their ages makes it clear why they once did.


www.bbc.co.uk/blackcountry / June, 2004:

Great Rock'n'Roll show in Wolverhampton

Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis

Civic Hall / Wolverhampton / England

June 28 / 2004

By Matthew Sankey

"Put on your dancin' shoes and get ready to boogie all night long, as rock'n'roll's greatest heroes come duck-walkin, rattle-n-rolling to Wolverhampton Civic Hall."

Upon entry, people are clearly excited very excited. Chuck Berry, a man who changed the face of rock'n'roll and bought black music onto the world stage, supported by another genre-defining artist Jerry Lee Lewis are to take the stage to rapturous applause as both them and their fans prove you're never too old to rock 'n' roll!

Firstly a support band of the Super Crank Trio. I missed out on the birth of rock'n'roll (being 22 I didn't really have much choice) but I now know what my grandfolks meant when they referred to the good old days. This band - sporting a double bass, guitar and drummer - set in motion the timewarp to transport the audience back to 1950s America when quiffs were in style and your dad was cool! They played some early inspired rock'n'roll, getting toes tapping and stirring memories of end of year proms and ball room jiving!

Jerry Lee Lewis treated the crowd to a fantastic display of ivory-tickling, jumpin'-&-jivin' music, playing his signature tunes like 'Chantilly lace' and 'Whole lotta shakin' goin' on' and finally as if it hadn't been anticipated that one song that was guaranteed to the raise the roof and let it hover there for a while: 'Great Balls of Fire'! Awesome, just fantastic!

It's clear to see how these people influenced the world. Although they are obviously not getting any younger, Jerry Lee and the band still manage to put in a performance that would put any modern band to shame. Not once did they let one person lose that big goofy grin that had found its way on to hundreds of faces.

It's true to say that this kind of performance is a special event, especially in this day and age where it seems that these old inspiring tunes seem to have been almost forgotten along the way. So much so that it draws a celebrity crowd in the form of local legend in his own right Mr Robert Plant, who had come to pay homage to two people who no doubt influenced him. A very special night indeed!

A standing ovation welcomed the deceptively tired-looking Chuck Berry onto stage. He soon proved me wrong as he effortlessly eased into 'Roll over Beethoven'.

This man on stage was not just here to play a few songs. He was here to entertain, making light banter with the crowd and stage technicians, (a constant but heart-warming battle over the level of his microphone!). Not only a great artist but a charming man who has never got too big for his duck-walking boots!

Mid-set, the bemused band look on as Chuck starts singing 'My Ding a Ling', using the audience to sing back his lyrics and performing his trademark duck-walk across stage.

When other people his age are having trouble standing up, let alone putting in an hour's performance, he keeps on jiving and looks like he could carry on all night.

When you see performances like this, you have to wonder why the world can be a lyrically unhappy place. With writing like this, you can't help but forget the world around you and think that life ain't so bad.

So we approach the end of the act and there's one thing missing so far... That's right Mr Johhny B Goode! It flashes from Chuck's signature red guitar leaving many fans hysterical and longing for more and unfortunately the night has to come to an end.

Let's just hope that these songs live on to tell the world how it all began. A truly wonderful evening.


Jetsetters Magazine / 2003:

Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis in Las Vegas

Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis

The Orleans Arena / Las Vegas / Nevada

July 5 / 2003

By Linda Lane - Las Vegas Entertainment Writer

On July 5, 2003 Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis added a footnote to the history of rock and roll by performing live at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. "The Big Kahuna", a disc jockey from sponsoring Oldies station, Kool 93.1, told the audience, "Tonight you're part of history! These three giants of Rock and Roll have never played on the same bill before".

The audience, primarily made up of Boomers hoping to ignite memories of youthful exuberance, and young music aficionados fresh from Music History class, waited with baited breath to see if the septuagenarian headliners could still shake, rattle and roll.

Frankie Marino and his band opened the show with wild, '50s high-energy Rock. Frankie, a good-looking, electrifying singer, plays a mean keyboard. Other band members included Tony Moreno on bass, Joe Moreno on saxophone, Carlos Ong playing trumpet and acoustic guitar, Dino Marino on drums, and Randy Nations on guitar. The set began with 'Blue Paper, Blue Ink', a song written for Ray Charles. They primed the audience for the first legend, Jerry Lee Lewis and his All-Star Band.

Kenny Lovelace, a Lewis band member for 36 years, introduced, "The Killer"! Jerry Lee Lewis made his entrance wearing a well-cut, conservative sport jacket and slacks. He moved slowly, wounded from too many years of Rock 'n' Roll. The All-Star Band had rhythm and lead guitars, an organist, a drummer, and "the 'Great Balls of Fire'" pianist himself.

"You got me doin' what you want me to do: Goin' up, Goin' down" - Lewis let the spirit of the music pump excitement into performance. His fingers move through the emotionally riveting, heart-thumping numbers on auto-pilot, at one with the keys.

When the legendary "Killer" speaks, his words are difficult to understand. When he sings his words are clear. The band plays 'Matchbox', then 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow'. During 'Baby What's You Gonna Do?' Jerry Lee forgets some of the lyrics and covers with charm. The audience yells requests. Lewis sings the Big Bopper's hit, 'Chantilly Lace'. As a tribute to old friend Gene Autry he sings, 'Back in the Saddle Again'. 'Dixie Kiss Your Love Goodbye', and 'Rock 'n' Roll Ruby' follow. At one point Lewis turns to the lead guitarist and asks, "How's it go?" Kenny Lovelace leans down and whispers something in his ear. Lewis picks it up where he left off and the crowd loves him for it.

The finale is a series of hit song bytes. 'I love to Boogie Woogie Baby' suddenly stops, "The Killer" kicks the piano bench away, leans back and plays 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'. The audience leaps to its feet. Lewis and his All Stars close with 'Great Balls of Fire'. The audience gives him another standing tribute.

After a short intermission the Big Kahuna announces, "The originator, the innovator, the architect of Rock 'n' Roll - Little Richard!" A flash of white sequins streams across the stage. The audience is up and applauding. Backed by a great nine piece band, Little Richard climbs on top of the piano and squeals, 'Good Golly, Miss Molly'. He makes himself comfortable at the piano, singing 'Blueberry Hill' and 'Boney Maroni'.

"You're gonna make me scream like a white lady!" he teases the audience, screaming his trademark high-pitched vocal. "Do we have any black people here? I want you to come quickly. Mexicans, Jewish, white - on stage!"

Female members of the audience climb on stage and dance to 'Old Time Rock 'n' Roll'. Where is Dick Clark? you ask yourself.

"Give me a blue light," Richard tells the lighting technician."Make me look beautiful. I'll be 71 this year." He plays the piano and sings 'Lucille', punctuating verses with more high-pitched screams. The saxophone is loud and prominent enough to mask mistakes. He plays, 'Jenny, Jenny, Jenny', 'Keep A Knockin'", and 'Born in the USA'. After 50 minutes he closes by calling more people on stage to dance. There is another standing ovation.

Finally, the man credited with combining Country, and Rhythm and Blues guitar licks with lyrics that teens can identify with - Chuck Berry. He comes on at 9:25 p.m. with a standing ovation. Tall, skinny and wearing a red sequined shirt and black jeans, he joins his six piece back-up band on stage.

The Berry repertoire of hits reminds one of the famous Brian Wilson quote, "He (Chuck Berry) wrote all the great songs and came up with all the rock 'n' roll beats". Chuck Berry delivers his greatest hits -- 'Rollover Beethoven', 'Up in the Morning and Out to School', and 'Sweet Little Sixteen'. This is the entertainer credited with bringing black and white teens together with his music. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys are a few of the groups that have thanked him for making them what they are today.

Approaching his 77th birthday, Berry sings, and plays with the accuracy and professionalism of a living legend. He introduces his son, Charles "Chuck" Berry, Jr. on guitar; clearly proud of him and trying to push him into the limelight. Berry is extremely articulate and when he speaks about his family, his life or the blues, there is a poetry of sound that reveals the roots of Rap.

The hits continue with 'Carol', 'Everyday I have the Blues', and a Blues song called 'The Flu'. Berry explains, "It don't have to be loud, blues is a feeling.' He plays the piano. Then it's back to the guitar and 'Rock and Roll Music'. 'My Dingaling' is always a crowd pleaser, and 'Johnny B. Goode' has people dancing in the isles. He invites girls on stage. He does his famous duck walk while fans gyrate to the song that launched him, 'Maybellene'. There's one more standing ovation, and just enough time to let the Father of Rock and Roll know how much he is appreciated. Chuck Berry and his band were the highlight of a memorable concert. Long live Rock'n'Roll!