Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Little Things: Chuck Berry: How You've Changed

The LAST time I went to Missouri to see Chuck Berry (October 2010) I was lucky and saw two shows.  The first, at The Pageant, was spectacular.  Berry was feeling good and played the guitar well.  The second show, four nights later at Blueberry HIll, was fun but fell apart for a few minutes when Berry untuned his guitar.  Both nights he played the riff you hear behind the singing in this song.  The way he plays it (from a barre chord at the root position) requires fingers a yard long and a little finger with the strength of ten ordinary men.  (Well, anyway, it makes my finger hurt in the key of C and becomes nearly impossible for me in G, where he so often plays slow blues.)  Both times he played it while his daughter Ingrid sang.  The first time it worked beautifully.  The second time it was immediately after he'd cranked every knob and the riff became unrecognizable-- a series of strange bleats from his Gibson that he stubbornly refused to stop playing.  But it's a reason I enjoy seeing him.  Each time I learn something.  In olden times (a phrase my daughter used to use while discussing my youth) I was too overwhelmed by the scoots, the laughs, the splits and the songs to see or hear the littler things.  Now I can pick and choose-- and always seem to walk away with something.

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