Performance review: George Thorogood and the Destroyers at WestWorld of Scottsdale, April 5, 2024

posted: April 6, 2024

tl;dr: Definitely still rocking after fifty years...

Chuck is dead. Jimi’s dead. Stevie Ray’s dead. Eddie’s dead. Malcolm’s dead*, although brother Angus still tours. But “Lonesome” George Thorogood and the Destroyers are still rocking hard after fifty years, as they proved to an appreciative crowd of bikers at Arizona Bike Week 2024, where they headlined the Friday night concert on an outdoor stage.

The reason I grouped those names together is that they all are/were practitioners of a certain musical genre that I have enjoyed since I was young: blues-based rock and roll where the guitar player plays the central role. Yes the song, the rest of the band, and (usually although not always) vocals are present and influence the result, but the guitarist is the star and carries the show. Chuck Berry was the role model, and all have followed in his footsteps. It’s a style of music that is not as popular as it once was, with Taylor Swift setting box office records on her Eras tour. The Rolling Stones are still carrying the torch, as are George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Five musicians on a stage with a drumset and speakers in the background and people's heads below in the foreground: a saxophone player, a drummer, a guitarist dressed in black, a bass player, and another guitarist

George Thorogood front and center with the four members of the Destroyers behind him

As I’ve aged, I’ve developed an appreciation for “lifers”, those people who continue in their profession until death or health issues make it impossible. They are past their prime, and past their days of leading their field and making maximum money, yet they continue on, mostly because of love and passion for their field. After witnessing the show, I would definitely put George Thorogood and his band in this category. Yes they got paid, but it wasn’t a million-dollar gate, and they could probably be relaxing in retirement rather than touring the country. The passion for the music came through. George really does love rock and roll music, and is doing what he can to keep it alive so that people can enjoy it. His music has always had a major element of fun to it, which is often missing from modern rock music.

I know I saw George Thorogood play a concert at Cornell’s Bailey Hall when I was a student, and I think I saw him perform one other time some small number of years later. I had as much fun at the 2024 concert as I did seeing him play in the 1980s. Has George lost a step or two? Haven’t we all? I was pleasantly surprised at his voice, which was strong and still able to cover the full range of notes in his songs (which was never that extreme to begin with). His guitar playing has slowed a notch or two, and he’s not able to cover all the lead guitar pieces across the entire show. Being a smart entertainer, he had a second, very capable guitarist in the band who was able to play the lead licks at times.

A graphic on a black T-shirt, with the band's name in red in a circle surrounding a large five and zero in white with a lightning bolt in the center of the zero, and additional smaller lettering in yellow above and below the numbers

Fifty years is quite a milestone in the rock and roll business

That’s okay! It’s always been George Thorogood and the (Delaware) Destroyers. There is a band behind him to help fill out the songs, and it’s fine for band members to step up and carry a bit more of the load. It reminded me of seeing B.B. King late in his career (B.B. was so much older than me it wasn’t possible for me to see him early in his career). By the time I saw him B.B. was a world-class entertainer, and had an absolutely top notch band. He would send out his band to open the show, play a few songs without him, build to a crescendo, and then B.B. would walk onto the stage to the roar of the crowd (“Ladies and gentlemen Mr. B.B. King!!!”). B.B. still plucked away at Lucille, his beloved guitar, but the band could carry the load for any song. George had his band play one song without him in the middle of the show, and the second guitarist had some good solos, but he still played most of the lead parts himself, especially in the second half of the show when he switched to playing slide guitar.

George has a rich discography, and there wouldn’t have been time to play all the songs that I wanted to hear. Two of my favorites, which were not played, are “It Wasn’t Me” and “Madison Blues”. He did play all his most popular hits, as well as some others. The highlight of the show was “Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job”, which accurately sums up George’s life. It’s a perfect song to play to a crowd of bikers. During that song and others, George’s boyish, impish glee came through, and one could almost forget that he’s in his in his seventies.

My only advice to George is to keep on rocking, and keep the music alive as long as he can.

* Berry, Hendrix, Vaughn, Van Halen, Young