Rychard Carrington reports on George Thorogood & The Destroyers and The Dirty Strangers - Cambridge Corn Exchange, 21 May 2009

George Thorogood
Cambridge Corn Exchange, The


The Dirty Strangers, a hard and indeed dirty post-new-wave rhythm and blues band of the 80s, hailing from Shepherd's Bush, have reformed and produced an album with the appealing title West Twelve to Wittering. Perhaps best known for collaborating with Keith Richards (Wittering resident), here they are at the Corn Exchange supporting George Thorogood. They rock very well; nice keyboards by Scott Mulvey in particular. It was good to see singer Alan Clayton's glasses hanging on a chain around his neck, especially when one arm dropped down and the specs started thrashing around precariously on his chest. A bit John Shuttleworth, that.


George Thorogood, by contrast, wore a necklace of what looked like sharks' teeth around his neck. To be honest, his American swagger was a bit challenging for my English modesty. I tried to accept it as being in the vein of Chuck Berry, rather than that of John McEnroe. It's all a celebration of himself as virile bad-boy winner. Even the cartoon backdrop to I Drink Alone depicts Thorogood's bad-boned bulldog persona drinking with a large-breasted floozie looking admiringly on from just a couple of yards away. That's not loneliness as Morrisey or Nick Drake present it.


Thorogood's music is correspondingly full-on and straight-down-the-line, without irony or nuance or anything to offset the raunchy bravura. But hell (as I believe the 'Yanks' say), reflection and subtle suggestion are not what's on offer. The opening number promises a Rock Party, and that is what Thorogood and The Destroyers deliver, from start to finish. The presentation may be a tad too Bon Jovi, but the music belongs to a lineage that stretches well back beyond AC/DC to Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf. It's good to see such music still very much alive. The centrepiece is Thorogood's guitar - he certainly needed to play it well to justify the projected image, and indeed he does, full of dexterous energy, including some neat work on the slide. By contrast The Destroyers, far from exhibiting any destructive tendencies, are quite self-effacing, quietly getting on with job of playing their instruments very well. It's always good when a rock band features instruments beyond the standard guitar-bass-drums; The Destroyers could perhaps have benefited from some bluesy piano, but instead it was left to the saxophone to enrich the texture rather nicely.


After the band left the stage for the final time a recording of God Save The Queen was played through the speakers. Nice touch. And God save rock and roll. Yes indeed.


Writer: Rychard Carrington