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Story by Andy Argyrakis
Culling together revitalized sounds from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s, the ever-shuffling 90 minute night features both obvious and slightly less common touchstones, including era-defining material from Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Bill Haley & The Comets, Chubby Checker, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, The Dells, Ike Turner, and of course, some of Lewis' top tunes. However, the set list and narration spends considerable time with a local focus, honing in on Chicago institutions such as Chess Records, Vee-Jay Records and the world renowned blues scene in general.
Besides an endless stream of music (and the chance to wine and dine off the menu via a voucher included with tickets), "Rock Baby Rock" is also peppered with a plethora of historical tidbits and explanations of some Hard Rock artifacts, and though it's far from a master class, it's certainly a fascinating crash course. Fans of all ages are sure to marvel at the fact that Chuck Berry's immortal "Johnny B. Goode" and Etta James' frequently sampled "Something's Got A Hold On Me" were recorded just a few miles down the road on South Michigan Avenue, then later, proudly be reminded that Chicago radio legend Dick Biondi was the first American DJ to ever play The Beatles.
Though there were hints of The British Invasion, the Phil Spector sound and Motown towards the end of this particular Tuesday, the show is most focused when highlighting rock's early years and their kinship to blues, soul, doo-wop, rockabilly and surf. Yet across all these intertwined sounds, the real scene stealer is Lipinsky's reprisal of Lewis for "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," especially when he crosses his arms and turns his back to the keyboard but still manages to play at intense speed.
Between his jaw-dropping skills and just as pristine performances from all the accompanists, "Rock Baby Rock" is destined to delight not only "Million Dollar Quartet" appreciators, but much of the era it surrounded. And with so many chestnuts from that golden era to choose from, coupled with everyone's pliable proficiency, there's also the potential for ongoing evolution, which will likely mean a fruitful run for this cracked open time capsule on steroids.
"Rock Baby Rock" featuring Lance Lipinsky & The Lovers continues select Mondays and Tuesdays in February, every Tuesday in March, plus additional dates TBA at Hard Rock Cafe Chicago. For additional details, visit RockBabyRockLive.com.
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