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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisHe may not have a new album, but this year marks the 50th anniversary of Chubby Checker doing "The Twist" and he's celebrating with a career retrospective tour. Of course, that classic dance track is the full-figured singer's primary calling card, though his set list split between originals and covers served as a textbook time warp to rock n' roll's golden era. For a briskly paced 75-minutes, The Venue at Horseshoe Casino was packed with a consistently standing, shaking and swinging crowd that often filtered into the aisles and was greeted personally by the ringleader on several occasions.
In fact, besides being a well-preserved soulful pop singer, Checker was the consummate entertainer at a spry 69-years-old, inviting both male and female members of the audience up on stage for separate dance-offs, plus frequent trips into the crowd to shake hands, give hugs and give a few ladies a big kiss. All the while, there were plenty of reasons to sing-a-long, from the sock hopper "The Pony" to foot stomping romp "The Hucklebuck" and the low dipping flow of "Mary Ann Limbo (Marianne)."
Along with his own familiar favorites, Checker and his whip-smart band The Wildcats made a wise decision to round out the evening with several like-minded covers, including an early rendition of Louis Armstrong turned Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill," the Carl Perkins-penned "Blue Swede Shoes" and Bill Haley and His Comets' era-defining "Rock Around the Clock." Yet not everything the legendary swiveler touched turned to gold, mainly a momentum sagging country ballad set influenced by his late great muse Ernest Tubb (who was also the first ever concert he attended).
Nonetheless, Checker rounded the bases with three of his most famous morsels of fun, getting everyone in the audience to shimmy alongside "The Fly," followed up a few songs later with the equally active "The Twist." Yet it was the grand finale "Let's Twist Again" that connected with the most contagious sense of communal hip shaking and continued influencing modern day dance trends for which the R&B and hip-hop worlds should be especially indebted.
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