George Thorogood & The Destroyers w/ Trampled Under Foot
Sept. 23, 2014
The Fillmore, San Francisco
“I get high off the music and the people,” George Thorogood announced before he played his encore Tuesday at The Fillmore. “That’s the real thing.”
In the crowd, the feeling seemed mutual. Thorogood and his Destroyers – whose Tuesday show was part of the blues rock group’s 40th anniversary tour – didn’t really need to put on a show (their sheer presence was clearly enough to enchant their fans), so it was especially nice that they did.
Their openers, Kansas City’s blues family band Trampled Under Foot, played a tight and rousing five-song set with a headliner’s confidence (rather than an opener’s defiance). They concluded with two entirely just covers – first The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling,” then their Led Zeppelin namesake, which featured The Destroyers’ Jim Suhler on rhythm guitar.
Thorogood arrived onstage in bandanna and sunglasses, which didn’t make it past the first song, but their spirit did. The set was abundant – to popular delight – with Thorogood’s long-practiced tongue flutters, benignly lewd grins, and hip-centric moves (though these were scaled back and modified for age).
If not for some odd choices in background video graphics, you’d hardly guess the band was 40 years old.
It was, however, obvious that the band had been playing together for 40 years. Though not unlively, The Destroyers performed with the animated ease of having done so countless times before, and with the semi-anonymous comfort of being the post-“and” part of the outfit. To watch Suhler, bass guitarist Bill Blough, and drummer Jeff Simon provide the instrumental backdrop – and saxophonist Buddy Leach casually provide the band’s sonic signature – was a pleasure, as it’s a pleasure to watch any excellent ritual.
In addition to the anticipated favorites – “Who Do You Love,” “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” “Move It On Over” – the band made some creative set inclusions, one being a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues.” (“I met Johnny and June once,” Thorogood said proudly, “and they thought I was a really cool guy.”)
The set concluded – how could it not? – with “Bad to the Bone,” which was smartly underdone, presumably in the (quite accurate) prediction that the audience would supply most of its required energy.
But “Madison Blues” was saved for the encore and was played with a backdrop of footage from George Thorogood & The Destroyers’ 40 years of bandhood.
“The foreplay is over,” Thorogood said before the band started the beloved song. “It’s time to get down to business.” This reviewer must confirm the truth of that statement.
Thorogood had spent the evening thanking the Bay Area and its local radio stations, which he said were some of the first to play George Thorogood & The Destroyers’ first record in 1977. After finishing “Madison Blues,” Thorogood fetched a pre-prepared shot of something brown from beneath the drum kit and lifted it.
“To the good people of the Bay Area,” he said, and took the shot. Surely it was a routine tour stunt, but it certainly felt special.
Set List: Rock Party | Who Do You Love | The Fixer | Night Time | I Drink Alone | One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer | Cocaine Blues [Johnny Cash cover] | The Sky Is Crying | Get a Haircut | Born to Be Bad | Move It On Over | Tail Dragger | Bad to the Bone
Encore: 3rd Stone from the Sun [incomplete] | Madison Blues