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REVIEWS



THE LEGENDS OF ROCK AND ROLL 1998 TOURby Rod Pyke

Along with about 8,000 other people I went along to Wembley Arena to see The Legends of Rock & Roll 1998 European Tour. After reading the earlier e-mails on the RAB list I did not know whether I would get to see all three legends, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. Luckily on this occasion all three performed.

A few minutes earlier than advertised the lights dimmed and the MC introduced the Jerry Lee Lewis band. The band consisting of Kenneth Owen Lovelace (Guitar), Robert Hall (Drums) James Edward Burton (Guitar) and B B Cunningham (Bass) played one number and then introduced Jerry Lee's sister. She came on and did two rocking numbers very powerfully and confidently but there was nothing really outstanding about her performance. A tremendous roar went up as Jerry Lee was introduced and everybody got to their feet as he appeared from the side of the stage wearing a red shirt and black slacks. He waved to the audience and then went over to his piano and rattled off all the songs the fans wanted to hear. He may not be as energetic as he used to be but boy he can still play that piano. There is no more standing up and playing or playing the keys with his feet, except for one time at the end of Great Balls of Fire. His voice sounded quite good as he went through Whole Lotta Shakin', You Win Again, Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee, Over The Rainbow, Chantilly Lace, Boogie Woogie Country Man and Mean Woman Blues. He really seemed to be enjoying himself, the crowd certainly were and several were up dancing in the aisles. It was just like the 50's all over again. Jerry had excellent backing from his band and the Killer' spot finished far too soon, he only did 35 minutes but perhaps we should be grateful that at his age we can still witness the legend at all. The standing ovation he received as he left the stage went on for several minutes. Will we ever see the likes of Jerry back upon these shores again?

After a short intermission to change equipment Little Richard's band was introduced. A ten piece unit consisting of Derrick Martin (Drums), Mark Holland (Drums), Jesse Boyce (Bass, John Helms (Sax/Flute), Wayne Choney (Trumpet/Sax), Charmis Davis (Keyboards), Guy Higginbotham (Trumpet/Sax), Kelvin Holly (Guitar), Charles Glen (Bass) and Ken Walker (Sax). In addition there were two male dancers Shawn Johnson and James Bonds. This was a really raunchy solid band with two drummers and they all gave a professional and visual support to Little Richard. This Georgian legend got a standing ovation on his entry to the auditorium and he stood there milking the applause. He was dressed in a loose blue suit studded with sequins, the real showman. At 65 his voice sounded as good as ever even if his movements were a bit slower and he still pounded that keyboard with venom. His performance took me back over 30 years when I last saw him perform at Walthamstow Granada. I was as impressed with him now as I was then. Good Golly Miss Molly, Tutti Frutti, Jenny Jenny, Bama Lama Bama Loo, Keep a Knockin', Rock & Roll, That Old Time, Long Tall Sally, The Girl Can't Help It, all his hits were all there. On other songs Blueberry Hill and Be-Bop-A-Lula he had the fans doing their bit and singing along with him. On several of the numbers he was joined by one of his male dancers. Their rubber like limbs gyrating all over the stage, this was probably more 90's than 50's but appreciated by the audience. The highlight of the evening was of course Lucille in which Little Richard insisted that all the spotlights were turned to blue and the building shuddered with the energy generated from Little Richard and his band. With his blue suit darker than when he started, through the sweat, he rose to acknowledge another of the crowds standing ovations and left the stage after 70 pulsating minutes. I think he could have gone on all night.

This vast crowd had been treated to some real energetic Rock and Roll tonight and were awaiting the third legend Chuck Berry. At 9.40pm the lights dimmed once again and the MC from BBC Radio introduced the man himself Chuck Berry. Dressed in a bright yellow silk shirt and dark grey slacks, he came on stage and bowed several times to the audience and picked up his famous guitar and started his first number Roll Over Beethoven. The guitar to me did not sound quite right, too bassy for my liking and the song was played at a lot slower pace. This was noticeable with most of his numbers during his set. I did not think the band that backed him Mark Stevens (Keyboards), Jeff Seopardie (Drums) and Jimmy Marsala were strong enough. The piano player, however, was excellent but Chuck spent too much time getting him to do piano solos and these went on far too long and the audience were beginning to get impatient. One thing about a British audience when they get restless they begin to heckle and heckle they did. They wanted fast Rock and Roll and they were getting slow blues numbers mixed in with slow paced classics such as Memphis Tennessee, Sweet Little Sixteen, Carol, My Ding-A-Ling, Havana Moon, Reelin' & Rockin' and Too Much Monkey Business. The only songs that came anywhere near the Chuck Berry of old were Nadine, Johnny B Goode and Little Queenie. At times one felt quite embarrassed for Chuck as his guitar seemed out of tune and on occasions he was singing in a different key to what the band were playing. This along with the fact that he forgot the words on several occasions did not help his cause. Half waythrough his performance people were already leaving, which was sad to see but his faithful followers remained, we remembered him from his younger days and at 71 we cannot, I suppose, expect the same sort of standard. One of the problems tonight was that Jerry Lee and Little Richard had given the audience such a powerpacked expose' of Rock 'n' Roll that they wanted more, and Chuck did not deliver.

It may have been better if the order of the performers had been reversed so that Chuck could have opened the nights show. The majority of the people did stay to the end and did give Chuck a standing ovation. Generally I think everyone left very disappointed with him and I heard several comments to that affect.

Overall it was a good night, one that may never be witnessed again as these legends arenít getting any younger.

The plus points were:
Seeing the Killer and Little Richard, and despite their age, seeing that they can still rock.
The vast age range that this show brought together. While the youngsters are being encouraged to attend these events Rock 'n' Roll will never die.

The minus points:
Chuck's disappointing performance.
Having to listen to Fleetwood Mac records during the intervals at a Rock 'n' Roll show. (I personally like the band but thought R & R records would have been more appropriate for R & R fans).

-Rod