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Jerry Lee Lewis 80th Birthday concert Clyde Auditorium Glasgow 10th September 2015

Jerry Lee Lewis 80th Birthday concert Clyde Auditorium Glasgow 10th September 2015jerryleeprog
Last night rock ‘n’ roll Legend Jerry Lee Lewis played his final UK concert, as part of his 80th birthday Farewell UK tour. The short tour included two dates, one earlier in the week at the London Palladium, and last night’s concert, which I attended, and which was at the Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow.
To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect from this concert. The last time I saw Jerry Lee Lewis was at Newcastle City Hall 11 years ago. That night he played a very short set, probably around 30 minutes, and although he was on good form, he looked tired. I wondered how the great man would be, now that he is 80 (well he is actually 79, and 80 in a couple of weeks time). I had to go and see the legend that is Jerry Lee one last time. He is one of the reasons rock exists, and the last man standing from the originals.
The Palladium show sold out and reviews were good, with Robert Plant and Ringo attending. The Glasgow show had tickets left, to the extent that I received an email informing me that my seat had been reallocated “for production reasons” and that I would be given an upgraded seat on the night. What I suspect that meant was that the gallery, where I had bought my cheap seat, was being closed and that we were all being moved downstairs to make sure that the stalls and the circle were full.
I set off early to drive up to Glasgow, leaving around 2.30pm to be sure to get there on time. The traffic was fine, and I was at the venue around 6pm, giving me time to park the car and get my bearings. I had a short wait before the doors opened. I then joined a queue of fans who were also having their seats reallocated. I was given a seat half way back in the stalls. Result!
The promoter had assembled a strong supporting bill for the two concerts. There were so many acts I wondered whether it would work, which it did; in fact it all ran incredibly smoothly. The concert started at 8pm prompt. Compère and radio presenter Ally Bally was our host for the evening and he did a great job introducing the acts, hitting just the right balance of patter. DJ Mike Read had been compere at the Palladium and Ally Bally told us that he had been speaking to Mike about how well that concert went. Ally reminded us that this was a historic evening, encouraging us to “party” and to give Jerry Lee a great Glasgow welcome.
The first act was young Swiss pianist Ladyva, who warmed the audience up with two excellent boogie woogie numbers. Next on stage was Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon fame an the excellent Albert Lee on guitar, backed by the Elio Pace band. Peter and Albert did two songs. First was “Bye Bye Love” taking us back to the duo who started rock harmonies, the Everly Brothers, and then the Peter and Gordon massive hit “World without Love”. Both classic songs, played and sung perfectly, setting the tone for the evening. jerryleetixPeter left and Albert and the band were joined by legendary guitarist James Burton. Burton’s pedigree is impeccable; the man has played alongside Ricky Nelson, Frank Sinatra and, of course, Elvis, and is responsible for so many signature twang riffs. Their short set was around 6 or 7 songs and included “That’s Alright Mama”, “Hello Mary Lou” and “Tear It Up”. Wonderful classic rock’n’roll / country guitar. James Burton led on a slow instrumental; truly mesmerising stuff. Then everyone left and Jerry Lee’s band The Memphis Beats came on stage, along with Jerry’s sister Lynda Gail Lewis and her daughter Annie Marie Lewis. Lynda Gail is a rock’n’roll star in her own right and plays some pretty mean piano. She performed “Lets Talk About Us”, “Shake Rattle n Roll”, “Rip It Up” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”. She finished her set at approx. 9.15pm.
The concert continued at fast pace; no time for any intermission. A video was shown containing interviews with stars paying homage to Jerry Lee, his legend and his immense contribution to rock and roll: Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Kris Kristofferson, John Fogerty, Ronnie Wood, Chuck Berry, Sam Philipps of Sun, Willie Nelson; all with their own Killer stories to tell.
The moment the video finished Jerry Lee walked on stage, slowly and with a little help from an aide. We took to our feet, and as one stood cheering, applauding and shouting, making sure the Killer knew just how delighted we were to see him, and how honoured we were to be in the presence of the great man. What followed was a highly emotional, and at times almost unbelievable and surreal, experience. Jerry Lee’s performance was much much better than I witnessed ten years ago in Newcastle. His voice was strong; he sang in a low key, slowly, carefully. His piano playing was as fast and dexterous as ever. A video screen focused close-up on his face. I could see that he was concentrating; focussing on the words, his singing and his performance. But I could also see that he was smiling; genuinely touched by the warmth of the reception he was receiving from the Scottish crowd. Fans were dancing in the aisles; jiving, twirling and singing along. Fans of all ages; kids in their twenties and couples in their seventies. Old guys in full drape teddy boy gear.
The set was a mix of slow country ballads and classic rockers, some of Jerry’s own hits and several Chuck Berry songs. Of the ballads, I found Hank Williams “You Win Again” and Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” particularly moving. Of the rockers, well they don’t come much better than “Great Balls of Fire”. After just short of an hour Jerry Lee closed with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”, which developed into a medley of “Mean Woman Blues” and “What’d I Say”. Then he suddenly rose to his feet, kicked back the piano stool with his heel; the Killer attitude is still there. The crowd cheered loudly, sensing that we were witnessing a special moment. Then he was gone, leaving the band to close the show. We stood applauding, each of us knowing that we had just witnessed a unique performance. It was 10.10pm.
I headed to the car park, then it was down the M74 to Carlisle and across to the north east. I was back home around 1.15am, thoughts of Jerry Lee still running through my head.
Setlist: Down the line; You win again; Drinking wine; She even woke me up; Sweet little 16; Memphis Tennessee; Over the rainbow; Before the night is over; Roll over Beethoven; Great balls Of Fire; Why You Been Gone so long; Whole Lotta Shakin/Mean woman blues/What’d I say (Medley)