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Chuck Berry In Hackney (and to prove it, some reviews)

PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 6:52 pm
by Ted
For real. For true.
http://www.hackneyempire.co.uk/453/shows/chuck-berry-live-at-the-hackney-empire.html

I can't resist seeing the old bastard one last time.

PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 7:54 pm
by Adam Blake
Fu*k my old boots! I'll come with you, Ted.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 1:57 am
by Adam Blake
Ted, Norman and myself enjoyed a very lovely hour being entertained by the original Brown Eyed Handsome Man this evening. On rhythm guitar was his son, on harmonica and handbag was his daughter. (We were rather hoping that Chuck had kept to his tradition of being paid in cash before the performance and that the fee was in the handbag.)

Jools Holland and/or Keith Richards were nowhere in sight.

Chuck came on playing "Roll Over Beethoven" but the sound man had forgotten to turn on the front microphone. It took him a while to find the channel but Chuck seemed blissfully unconcerned. His vocals were a little ragged but still unmistakably authoritative. His guitar playing seemed a little, um, oblique at times - Chuck couldn't always decide what key he was in - but he approached it with great gusto and there were a couple of moments that plucked my heartstrings. One was all I was hoping for so to get two was definitely a bonus. Yes, he did "My Ding A Ling" but in a truncated form. He seemed to be enjoying himself. I thought he was the coolest 82 year old I've ever seen fronting a rock'n'roll band. At the end he got several girls up on stage dancing to "Reelin' And Rockin'" while he wandered off, still playing - courtesy of his radio lead.

After the gig, there were several people hanging around waiting for autographs. (Not us, of course, we just happened to be standing around the stage door by chance.) When it became clear that the man wasn't going to appear, or had in fact already left, one of the ladies shouted, in broadest Hackney tones: "Elvis was better, anyway". True though this may have been (and it's highly debatable) once upon a time, this was Chuck Berry's night and I cycled the eight miles home with Chuck on my iPod, singing along with every word, secure in the knowledge that I had seen perhaps the last of the great rock'n'rollers do a wonderfully alive and vibrant set.

Thanks Ted, for getting the tickets.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:20 am
by NormanD
Thank you for that report, Adam. I agree every word - we did, after all, have a post-gig analysis, having plenty of time on our hands after that short set.

Was I disappointed that it was only one hour (and not just around an hour, but one hour. Exactly.)? No. I would have been disillusioned if it had gone on for longer. Everything I had ever heard, or had come to expect, was true. Anything else would have burst the bubble.

I'm sure, like most reading this, I know Chuck's songs by heart. But hearing him sing them, changing the emphasis here, pausing between the lines there, reminded me what a great lyricist he is. His songs are short stories - nothing new in that, I know - but they fit all the rules of what is great story telling, and give you the goods in around two minutes. With memorable guitar too.

At the very end, when the reality of Chuck's no encore was upon us, his son came out to give the final goodbye "My name is Chuck Edward Berry Jnr. But it's not me you came to see". Then the red curtain quickly descended and the lights came on. We three critics discussed the sadness of this final, theatrical ending, and the Freudian implications of this father - son relationship.

Rhythm, blues, a spot of analysis, and a new punchline c/o of a disgruntled Hackney autograph seeker. A great night out!

Thirty years ago...

PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:18 pm
by Alan
I remember seeing Chuck B at the Rainbow Finsbury Park in about 1978. I went with my brother and can vividly remember him being a man of enormous style and charisma but with a very loose notion of key. He was surrounded by a young looking band and seemed to delight in deliberately starting a solo in a key that had no connection with the rest of the band. While they paddled furiously to catch up, somehow Chuck got away with it, with an enormous grin. I was about 16 at the time and thought to myself 'imagine having seen this guy 16 years ago'. And yet here he is another 30 years later, still at it!

I too waited at the stage door on Seven Sisters Road and to my complete surprise Chuck appeared. I had no scrap of paper for him to sign, so I showed my appreciation by gently squeezing his arm - a sign of affection which my brother occasionally did to me. Chuck looked at me as if to say no-one touches my arm without my permission. I can remember thinking oh no, what have I done, and then he then broke into a broad smile. Much better than any autograph!

Re: Thirty years ago...

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:10 am
by Charlie
Alan wrote:a very loose notion of key.

Chuck was notorious for testing those bands sent out to accompany him on UK tours. They had learned his songs from his records, and 'knew' what key he did them in. So he tested to see how good they were by playing in a different key. I believe it was his version of the game of chicken, to see who moved first to join the key the other was playing in.

There's probably a whole thread to be developed on the theme of songs that were recorded with a wrong word or two.

In Sweet Little Sixteen, Chuck sings:

they've just got to have
about a half a million
signed autographs
Their wallets filled with pictures
They get them one by one
become so excited
won't you look at them run

---------------

I always thought the verse would have made much more sense if he had sung that they had to have about half a million 'signed photographs'

Did Chuck say, at the session, I need to do that again, and Leonard Chess over-ruled him, saying it rocked and anyway who listens to the words, Chuck?

It would have been 'squeezed biceps', but he couldn't find the rhyme

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 4:15 pm
by NormanD
Johnnie Allen, of course, blew the words on his version of Chuck's "Promised Land" singing 'taxi to the terminal gate' instead of '....zone' (which rhymes with telephone). Ah, but who cares? The original hardly compares to this definitive cajun cover. On Saturday, Chuck didn't exactly get the words wrong to "Beethoven", he just started on the second verse. Fine by me - he wrote it, he can do exactly what he likes.
Charlie also wrote:Did Chuck say, at the session, I need to do that again, and Leonard Chess over-ruled him, saying it rocked and anyway who listens to the words, Chuck?
Please see today's YouTube thread from Adam of the Sonny Boy Williamson song - there is a suggestion of what the conversation between Chuck and Leonard Chess might have been like.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 4:21 pm
by Adam Blake
I suspect that Leonard might have been a bit more respectful to Chuck, seeing as he must have been the company's biggest selling artist at the time.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:52 am
by NickH
Norman wrote:
At the very end, when the reality of Chuck's no encore was upon us, his son came out to give the final goodbye "My name is Chuck Edward Berry Jnr. But it's not me you came to see".

Chuck's second night at the Hackney Empire featured a very long list of goodbyes from Chuck's son. Although he seemed to forget the name of the rather good young piano player, the rest of the band and the Hackney Empire's 'amazing' sound crew were thanked individually. I think he said that the bass player had been working with Chuck for 30 years, so this wasn't purely a band comprised of hired musicians for the European tour. Although Chuck didn't re-appear (he never plays for longer than 60 minutes), there was a fairly pointless encore which featured Chris Jagger on lead vocals.

Adam wrote:
On rhythm guitar was his son, on harmonica and handbag was his daughter. (We were rather hoping that Chuck had kept to his tradition of being paid in cash before the performance and that the fee was in the handbag.)

Chuck's daughter Ingrid's handbag made a second appearance on Sunday night too. She was a pretty amazing when she accompanied her dad with an extended wild harmonica solo (one of the evening's highlights).

No My Ding A Ling on the second night, thankfully. We did get (amongst others) great versions of Oh Carol, Sweet Little Sixteen, Reelin & Rockin, Rock & Roll Music and Johnny B Good. Chuck seemed to be enjoying himself and even attempted his duck walk on a couple of occasions. Probably as entertaining a Chuck Berry gig as the first time I saw him perform live more than 20 years ago.

PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2008 10:50 pm
by johnfoyle
The Chuck Berry show in Dublin on Thursday was a ramshackle, hugely enjoyable cabaret show. In a medium sized venue ( '628 capacity on stage front floor' said a mysteriously precise sign) that was rammed full of people of all ages Chuck gabbled his way through some of his lyrics , hit a few decent chords and , generally , benefited from a incredibly tight back band. His son played guitar also, ably filling in the licks his Dad missed/forgot. We all bawled along to My Ding A Ling (it's still astonishing to think that it's a song written by Dave Batholomew ) and most of the other Berry classics. His daughter belted out some great harmonica. He was on for about 70 minutes which is , apparently, 10 more than he usually does. The show finished with a bevy of ladies up on stage with the old codger looking in his element.

Re: Chuck Berry In Hackney (and to prove it, some reviews)

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:55 pm
by NormanD
I thought I'd bring this one back up again. Good reviews, comments, opinions, and memories of a fun night out with a music legend - old bastard that he clearly was.

Re: Chuck Berry In Hackney (and to prove it, some reviews)

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 4:16 pm
by john poole
Here's a little clip from the night -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHzHI9SDB7Q

Re: Chuck Berry In Hackney (and to prove it, some reviews)

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:12 pm
by AndyM
Great reading from the forum's back pages!