AS THIS was Jerry Lee Lewis’s 80th birthday bash, perhaps we should have anticipated that there would be guests galore at the party. Still, there was a long wait before the birthday boy showed up.
In the meantime, Lewis’s piano stool was warmed by a succession of performers, including the dexterous but demure boogie woogie player Ladyva, Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon fame), gentle old stagers James Burton and Albert Lee and his sister Linda Gail Lewis and niece Ann Marie Dolan, who collectively provided a loving but polite rock’n’roll primer to the main event.
Finally, almost 90 minutes into the programme, the Killer emerged to great excitement, stooped but ready to demonstrate that there is still some spirit in those fingers and quickly elicited some energetic bopping and jiving in the aisles, as far as healthy and safety would allow.
However, that initial wave of enthusiasm subsided as it became apparent that those limber fingers were to be used sparingly on a string of ballads and standards where he sang far more than he played.
Those vocals were somewhat awry on Hank Williams’ You Win Again, though just about suited the befuddled heartache of the lyric, while his conversational delivery of Over the Rainbow followed the Willie Nelson free phrasing model.
The jiving resumed on Memphis, Tennessee and Roll Over Beethoven, while some will have been satisfied simply to witness his signature songs Great Balls of Fire and Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On plus his token kick of the stool for the last time.