Jerry Lee at Green Bay, Wisconsin, April 12, 2005
by Colin Davies
Jerry Lee’s performance was originally scheduled for the previous day, but a thunderstorm down in Memphis meant his flight could not take off. Some of the crowd at the Rockin’ 50s Fest II were doubting if he would show up at all, but a quick check of the on-line Yahoo group showed that Kay Martin had called Phoebe Lewis who confirmed that he would indeed be performing the next day.
The show started on time, with a vocal from BB for “Bye Bye Johnny/Sweet Little Rock’n’Roller,” with Kenny and Buck Hutcheson on guitars and Robert on drums. Then Jerry came on in black jeans and a gray jacket, looking good. And throughout the show his voice was as strong than we’ve heard in years. Certainly he looked and sounded better than he did at the birthday two years ago, and that was pretty good! He had a great rapport with his band and with the audience, he sang every song all the way through, and he got all the lyrics correct.
He greeted the crowd with “Good to be here. I’m happy to be here,” and then went straight into “Roll Over Beethoven,” which included two great piano solos. Kenny was standing right beside him beside him, looking over his shoulder all the time. As the applause died down, he said, “You get older. It’s getting better. Ifs really good to be here. Hank Williams had a number one on this. I had a gold on this. It was the flip side of Great Balls of Fire”. And into” You Win Again.” As always it included a lot of Jerry Lee lyrics such as “that was Killer’s great sin…Jerry Lee can’t go…you trusted Jerry Lee,” etc.,” and it included the piano solo we all know and love. Just a few words “That’s a good old Hank Williams number” and into “CC rider,” that included the lyrics “Jerry Lee’s taking a trip woman, and I won’t be back till fall,” and “Your regular stud’s done gone.” Again, a great piano solo. Jerry was giving it all he had, and was certainly no operating on ‘auto-pilot’ as has been the case with some shows. Then he said, “If you want us to sound like that, it depends on what you’re on and what you’re taking and what you’ve b~en drinking. I cut that out a long time ago. And into “Drinkin~fWiAe”‘Spo-Dee-Oh-Dee,” which included great guitar and piano solos and was word perfect. A request was shouted out for “High School Confidential,” to which he responded “A little bit later. Let me get my breath back a little”. Next came “Sweet Little Sixteen.” Again, all the lyrics were correct, a great piano solo, and before Buck’s solo he called out “Take it brother”. Jerry’s comment after that number was “Chuck Berry. He knew how to write a song. He had 10 Number Ones in a row.” Robert suggested “Over the Rainbow,” and at first Jerry hesitated saying “I’m not in the mood for that.” Then he said, “OK, let’s get serious. That’s a pretty song and I’ll play it.” He played and sang it beautifully, and his lyrics included “There’s a land Jimmy Swaggart dreams of.” Again, great piano and guitar solos, and at the end he said, “You heard Judy Garland’s version. That’s pretty hard to beat. A beautiful song.”
And off he rocked into “Chantilly Lace,” which of course included his lyrics “You can never tell about Jerry Lee Lewis. I might…” Following that the audience started the chant of “Jerry, Jerry” (there were lots of Europeans in the crowd — French, Belgian, German, Italian, Brits), and Jerry went into “You and me and Bobby McGee”. Again, a fine piano solo, and all the lyrics were correct. After that, I shouted out a request for “Who will the next fool be?” Jerry heard me and responded , “Me. That’s a proven fact. The older I get, the more I realize it. That’s a great song. Charlie Rich wrote it for me.” He started to play it, but then said, “It’s been so many years ago, I don’t know that one. Let’s do a rock ‘n’ roll song”. And into Mack Vickery’s classic “Rockin’ My Life Away.” Before the solo he instructed Buck to “Play the guitar, boy”
By now the applause after every song was deafening, and Jerry cried out “I’m boogied to death, but I ain’t gonna quit. I’m even coming out with a new album. I’ve been saying that for 2 years. But if it doesn’t come out on the right label with the right promotion, it’s no point. That’s enough of that” And he charged into “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”. Once again his piano sounded great (I was right up close, leaning on one of the speakers, at BB’s feet!) Before the guitar solo he called out ‘Kenny!” And his “Let’s go one time” was greeted with a tremendous roar from the crowd. After that he said, “I’ve cooled myself quite a bit but I’m still rockin’ Jerry Lee. And this is a rock ‘n’ roll record. Beautiful song too. Clever lyrics. I’m sure you’ll enjoy…. And he pounded those four opening notes of “Great Balls of Fire.” A magnificent version. At the end he stood up, did that little dance he does, and left the stage. Then followed five minutes of cheers and whistles, but no encore.
The verdict? I thought it was one of his really great shows. 45 minutes of perfect rock ‘n’ roll with a little country. He sang all the songs all the way through, and no weird repetition of songs, as has happened at some shows. And as I said, he rapport with BB, Kenny, Buck and Robert, and with the audience was great (he listened to the calls for request and responded — even if he didn’t play my favorite!). His voice was strong and clear with hardly any of that huskiness it sometimes suffers from, and his piano solos were creative and magnificent. A triumph!!!