Monday, January 3, 2011

Chuck Berry @ Congress Theater, Chicago, 1/1/11

Octogenarian rock n' roll icon Chuck Berry collapsed in disappointment
at his keyboard about an hour into his set on New Years Day at the
Congress Theater in Chicago.
He opened the show with "Roll Over Beethoven," but the show quickly
took a turn for the worse as Berry would just stop playing mid-song.
He became obviously frustrated with his backing band, whom he never
practiced with. The band seemed to do everything it could to follow
Berry, but it wasn't enough. Berry kept changing songs mid-song and
then tuned his guitar for half the show, either stalling or being
legitimately out of tune the entire time. He walked over to the
keyboard player, and would hit the keys, to tune to the notes and then
told the keyboard player his keyboard was the one out of tune.
"I'm not saying it's your fault," Berry said.
It was horribly sad witnessing an 84-year-old man's intent and then
watching him struggle and fail to deliver. He walked over to the
keyboard, sat down and started playing/hitting keys, and then slammed
his hand on some low notes and put his head down for a minute before
being walked off stage by the Chicago Fire Department. When he came
back out later, he said he had "no strength." He looked defeated. We
were all thanked for coming out. Most of the people left. My friends
and I stuck around with a bunch of others and towards the back of the
stage, Chuck suddenly walks out, puts his guitar on, and tries to
play. Every one of us who was behind the fence in the pit hopped or
ran through it, rushing the to front of the pit, standing on chairs
and crowding the front of the stage. The Chicago Fire Department took
him off stage again, and we were told they were running some tests,
and if we could wait for 15 minutes, he might come back out and play
for us. We roared, cheered and applauded for Chuck as the Fire
Department took his blood pressure and ran some tests. As we all
hoped, he came back out about 15 minutes later, saying someone took
his guitar. He took the microphone and apologized. He said when he
collapsed over the keyboard, he felt he had no strength. He then said
he felt like he was "at a 10, maybe 15." He said after they ran the
tests on him, he now feels like he's at "a 65 or a 70." We cheered him
on more. People were shouting, "We love you, Chuck!" The Fire
Department and what looked like his manager among others were alertly
watching him as he took the microphone and said, "You wanna see me do
my scoot!"
What was left of the crowd, which previously rushed through the
barriers and to the front of the stage, roared with applause. Chuck
Berry did his signature duck walk, despite being told he shouldn't and
for the last time, was escorted off the stage. I felt like everyone
held their breath, afraid he might fall in his weak state, but after
he did it, I felt a burst of happiness. Here's Chuck Berry - the man
who created rock n' roll - at 84 years old, struggling to deliver a
performance on New Years Day in Chicago. He couldn't and it seemed
like the night changed when he did his "scoot." He didn't admit
defeat. It seemed like he knew what might happen if he did the duck
walk and he did it anyway. This may not be at all the case, but in his
face, I saw a man who would rather take a big risk doing what he loved
than succumb to old age and be carried away in front of his fans. Hail
hail rock n' roll, Chuck Berry.

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