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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisIt's not all that often that Jerry Lee Lewis hits the road these days, so when a summer concert date popped up in Chicago, it was sure to bring fans from the surrounding region out of the woodwork. Though all appeared to be on track, the legendary rock n' roller was hit with a bout of pneumonia, forcing a postponement until the winter, though at least it didn't have an ill effect on ticket sales as evidenced by a full house at the Congress Theater.
Despite that spell, the 76-year-old appeared in fine spirits in a short but sweet 70 minute set that collected his biggest hits and a handful of glimpses from last year's duets disc "Mean Old Man" (Verve). Between recent collaborations with Mick Jagger, Kid Rock, Slash, Tim McGraw, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow and Jon Brion, plus with plenty of prominence in "Million Dollar Quartet" (the Broadway musical about a magical day at Sun Studio), Lewis is earning an unexpected resurgence with senior citizens and hipsters alike.
If anything, this fierce and fiery set proved that "The Killer" is still a force to be reckoned with, showing up somewhere at the crossroads of rock n' roll, country, blues, gospel and rockabilly. First half highlights included the boogie-woogie stomper "Down the Line," the softer spoken bluesy ballad "No Headstone On My Grave" and the deadpan delivery of "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye," which showed his off his signature sense of humor.
As expected, the luminary saved his more familiar reflections until the end, kicking up plenty of dust with southern-stroked covers of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Sweet Little Sixteen." When it came to "Great Balls of Fire," he might not have been limber enough to jump up and down on the piano, but his fingers moved just as furiously along the keys. As the evening ended with the rootsy bang of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," Lewis more than lived up to his nickname and transferred the ghost of good old fashioned rock n' roll to today.
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