Jerry Lee gets his groove on
CONCERT REVIEW: Beale Street Music Festival
May 1-3, 2009
“We may be wet, but we’re not dead.”
Leave it to Jerry Lee Lewis, not exactly king of optimism, to put a positive spin on the 2009 Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis. The Killer was one of the highlights of a soggy weekend which featured performances that often matched the dismal weather.
The 73-year-old belied his grumpy, unpredictable reputation with a cheerful demeanor despite the rain. He smiled, cracked jokes, and enthusiastically performed a 12-song set with a voice stronger than should’ve been expected from the aging legend. Lewis kicked things off with "Roll Over Beethoven" and predictably sent the crowd away with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire,” walking offstage to thunderous applause as the latter played out.
The weekend's other standout performance came courtesy of Elvis Costello, who almost never fails to impress. Snoop Dogg also got the crowd moving with most of his hits over his 15-year career, including "Gin and Juice," "Drop It Like It's Hot" and "Nuthin' But a G Thang."
Elvis Costello performs with Los Lobos
George Clinton's presence wasn't necessary for Parliament Funkadelic's set; the frontman sang about one out of every 20 words and let the backgrounds singers do the rest. The same was true, to a lesser degree, for the Reverend Al Green, who attracted attention with his bright white suit but spent as much time passing out roses to audience members as he did singing.
The Steve Miller Band were a big disappointment on Friday, playing just one of their hits ("Abracadabra") during the first 70 minutes of their set, opting instead for little-known blues covers, just because they were in Memphis and thought it was appropriate.
The Bar-Kays rock the house
James Taylor's set was a bit too low-key for this kind of affair, though "Sweet Baby James" and "Carolina On My Mind" are impossible to resist. The latter was difficult to hear, because at the same time on an adjacent stage Hinder was playing their godawful ballad "Lips of an Angel."
Rise Against's Tom McIlraith heads into the crowd
A bunch of boring rock acts performed, including Shinedown, Theory of a Deadman, and Saving Abel. The one worth checking out was Rise Against, whose punk political diatribes got the crowd moshing.
Fall Out Boy closed out the weekend, and while they're not the greatest live act in the world, they deserve respect for being willing to open their set with an obscure album track, rather than catering exclusively to the teen girls who just want to hear the hits.
Overall, it was a fun weekend, despite the weather and some lackluster performances. Well worth the $65 ticket.