This review written by Phyllis Pollack was previously published in Billboard Magazine.
Fox Theater, St. Louis
Scalpers were receiving as much as $300.00 a ticket for this October 16 concert honoring rock’n’roll legend Chuck Berry. In addition to being a tribute---or as Keith Richards later said, “repaying some dues”—the concert was arranged in order to film segments of the upcoming Taylor Hackford movie, Hail Hail, Rock And Roll.
During his introductory speech, Hackford explained some of the film procedures and read congratulatory letters sent to Berry from President Reagan and Mick Jagger, who offered his regrets for being unable to participate. When Berry finally emerged, some 45 minutes late, he introduced Richards, who received tremendous applause as he took the stage sporting a blue tuxedo and tiger-striped shoes. The two guitar heroes were joined by such musicians as Robert Cray, original Berry keyboardist Johnny Johnson and sax player Bobby Keyes.
The show kicked off with “Maybelline,” but soon the band was instructed to stop playing by film technicians who were having technical problems, which recurred throughout the first show. Once the music started again, though, the 4,500 strong crowd was treated to a truly once-in-a-lifetime concert.
Berry and Richards exchanged their trademark solos, licks and rhythms that have changed and directed the course of rock’n’roll, while a variety of special guests appeared on stage.
Julian Lennon sang “Johnny B. Goode,” and Linda Rhonstadt offered a stunning performance of “Living In The U.S.A.” Another of the first show’s highlights was Etta James’ captivating rendition of “Rock And Roll Music.”
The second show started almost three hours later than had originally been planned. Happily, however, there were fewer interruptions. The crowd’s excitement was sustained, but Berry began to show signs of fatigue, with Richards taking more guitar leads. The Stones guitarist, whose playing and stage presence were impeccable throughout, was joined by Eric Clapton for a blues jam. Berry’s daughter, Ingrid, performed an impressive version of “Reelin’ And Rockin.’” Unfortunately, Bob Dylan, originally set to appear, did not show because of illness.
Lasting until 2:30 a.m., the second set also provided renditions of such Berry classics as “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “No Money Down,” “Nadine,” and “No Particular Place To Go.”
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