Today's Forecast: Hail!

Chuck Berry just oozes cool, doesn't he? The man who helped define
rock-and-roll attitude in its formative years sauntered onto the stage
in a spangly red shirt, white captain's hat and black slacks, then
smiled wryly while pretending to stretch.

No need for sustained posturing, though. Berry almost immediately got
down to businesses, peeling off one of the most famous double-string
licks in rock - the one that opens "Roll Over Beehtoven," Berry's
classic ode to the music he helped invent.

Actually, it's just one of Berry's odes to the music, and he followed
it with another one, "School Days," in which he declared: "Hail! Hail!
Rock-and-roll!"

It was just the beginning of a too-brief hit parade from one of rock's
founding fathers, who is still singing about youth culture at the age
of 81.

It was a streamlined set, with Berry performing the essential hits
with a trio led by his go-to guy in this region, keyboardist Daryl
Davis.

Satisfying performance but it lacked the crackle of weird energy I was
expecting based on the advertised billing of Berry backed by the
Silver Beats, a Beatles tribute band from Japan.

The creative pairing had the potential to provide one of the
festival's signature moments. Think about it: An archetypal
rock-and-roller teaming up with a Japanese-speaking band that
typically plays the music of a group that was heavily influenced in
its early years by Berry himself.

Not sure why it unraveled, but Malitz is promoting the theory that
Berry - who doesn't tour with his own band, instead using local
musicians at every gig - was none too pleased when he read the Post
Rock interview with "John" in which "John" admitted that he'd been
surprised to learn that Berry was still alive.

Anyway, with the Silver Beats sidelined, the only real surprise in the
set came during "Johnny B. Goode," when V-Fest producer and promoter
Seth Hurwitz ("the man who brought me here - the paymaster," Berry
said) sat in on drums. Hurwitz was fine, but he was no Japanese
"Ringo."

--J. FREEDOM DU LAC

By David Malitz |  August 9, 2008; 7:46 PM ET Virgin Festival
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