DVD Review: George Thorogood & the Destroyers – Live at Montreux 2013

DVD Review: George Thorogood & the Destroyers – Live at Montreux 2013
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B

George Thorogood & The Destroyers -
Live at Montreux 2013
Before every gig, George Thorogood listens for that "buzz," that growing murmur of excitement that runs through a crowd before a hotly anticipated show. When it goes away, "George is gone," says Thorogood, talking in the third person in a brief, but endearing, interview shoved into a new concert release from the blues-rock delinquent that documents his first-ever performance at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival on CD, Blu-ray and DVD.

What a strange thing it is to see Thorogood & the Destroyers playing such nasty, low-down favorites as "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" and "Move It On Over" in such a stylish and pristinely modern venue. A dingy, ramshackle juke joint with a tiny stage that smells of piss, smoky BBQ and stale beer would seem more appropriate. Good old George, trying to be as PG as possible, considering there were kids in the room, seems right at home, though, smiling and joking with the crowd about what's in the cup he's drinking from and playfully proclaiming a youngster to be the "future of rock 'n' roll." 

Bandana wrapped around his head, soaking up all that perspiration, Thorogood expresses how grateful he is to be playing at the vaunted festival, and for the most part, he and his band repay the organizers' faith in him with a solid, if not unforgettably rowdy, run through a slew of Thorogood's contributions to the '70s and '80s classic-rock canon. The boozy, snaky crawl of "I Drink Alone," the malicious stutter of a growling "Bad to the Bone" and the simmering boil of their pounding version of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" are deliciously fatty cuts of rocking blues, while a swaggering "Move It On Over" swims in Thorogood's ravenous and dirty slide guitar.

As expected from Thorogood, there are heaping helpings of it found everywhere on "Live at Montreux 2013," and the always rebellious Thorogood shakes some action with real energy in "Night Time" and a raucous "Rock Party," all of which sets the stage for the good and sweaty treatment they give to red-hot closer "Madison Blues," as well as their rough handling of Johnny Cash's rollicking "Cocaine Blues."

More of that rawness and vigor would be welcome on the vibrant "Live at Montreux 2013," professionally shot to focus on Thorogood's devilish charisma and the way his guitar snarls and noisily saws through timber with a roar that sometimes muted. The rest of his band gets its due camera time, as well, but it's Thorogood everybody wants to see and the filmmakers realize this. Perhaps its the ham-handed lighting, which floods Thorogood and the band at times in deep hues of blue and red, or the completely unnecessary backing images of flames and skulls, among other rock 'n' roll cliches, that make it seem as if they're missing some of that gruffness and edgy attitude that's made them barroom bards of hard living from their 1977 self-titled debut onward.

After all, what would Elmore James and Hound Dog Taylor think of such a glitzy stage show? Still, it's a joyous occasion for Thorogood and friends, and they do perform with wonderfully bad intentions, their playing, as always, fairly sharp and often quite lively. Thorogood still knows how to coax sinful, whisky-flavored sound from those six strings, all the while paying respectful homage to the John Lee Hookers and other blues men that inspired him. The buzz hasn't disappeared, although it is a little more faint than it used to be. http://www.eagle-rock.com/
– Peter Lindblad

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