LIVE: “Let It Rock! A Tribute to Chuck Berry” @ the Hangar on the Hudson, 10/20/17
Review and photographs by Amy L. Modesti
“Sweet Little Sixteen”…
“Roll Over Beethoven”…
“Run, Run Rudolph”…
Chuck Berry, the Father of Rock and Roll, should instantly come to mind upon hearing those timeless tunes. Although it’s been seven months since Berry’s passing, his legacy remains alive in the heart, soul and music of a team of Greater Nippertown musicians who joined forces to pay an amazing tribute to their hero at the Hangar on the Hudson in Troy earlier this month.
“Let It Rock! A Tribute to Chuck Berry” featured Local 518 favorites Mark Gamsjager (guitar/vocals), Mike Kelley (piano/vocals), Johnny Rabb (acoustic guitar/tambourine/vocals), Graham Tichy (guitar/vocals), John Tichy (guitar/vocals), Pete Vumbaco (drums/vocals) and Don Young (bass/vocals). Billy Harrison (guitar/vocals) also made an appearance with the group during their second set of the night. With a stellar line-up of musicians and Berry’s timeless hits, the fans were dancing along to rock and roll all night long.
Graham Tichy strummed and sang Berry’s classic tune, “Maybelline,” captivating audience members and dancers alike from the start. Johnny Rabb got the dancers swinging along to the rocking rhythms of his rendition of “Carol.” With “Almost Grown,” Graham gave a shout-out to keyboardist Mike Kelley while reminiscing about Johnnie Johnson, Berry’s pianist, and his jaw-dropping, melodic but bluesy solos.
One magical moment came towards the end of their first set as the band begun performing “Run Rudolph Run” to get an early jump on the holiday season. Added into the mix was a dance-off as Graham Tichy and Mark Gamsjager kicked their feet up and danced towards each other in tribute to Berrt’s trademark duckwalk. And although Christmas was still more than two months away, the audience didn’t seem to mind hearing a bit of holiday music at the Hangar.
Hearing these iconic songs was not only entertaining but also educational, as each performer took turns to discuss the musical history of Berry’s success with his hits and what elements went into making his songs timeless.
A few historic tidbits included the fact that Etta James sang backing vocals on “Come On,” while the Beatles borrowed the rhythm of “Talkin’ Bout You” for “I Saw Her Standing There.” And for “Come Together,” The Beatles also borrowed heavily from Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me.”
“Let It Rock” kicked off the entertaining and highly danceable second set of the night. Led by Gamsjager, dancers continued to sway and move along to the Cuban flair of “Havana Moon”. A cover of “Thirty Days” followed suit. Johnny Rabb had called up long-time friend and local musician, Billy Harrison, to join the band on stage to lead the singing of “Sweet Little Sixteen,” later seguing into “Nadine” with John Tichy carrying the vocals. It was a sweet moment to be able to watch Harrison perform on stage with his friends one last time as he is moving south to Florida.
There was more duckwalking to be done, and Graham didn’t disappoint during his electrifying solo on “Beautiful Delilah.” Closing out the second set were more gems from Berry’s classic catalog – “Wee Wee Hours,” “Promised Land,” “Reelin And Rockin’” (the rhythm section at times reminded me of “Tequila”), “School Days,” “House of Blue Lights,” “You Can’t Catch Me,” “Little Queenie” and “Roll Over Beethoven” before wrapping up the evening with one of the most quintessential songs of the last century, “Johnny B. Goode.”
“Let It Rock! A Tribute to Chuck Berry” left the fans (and musicians) satisfied while partaking in a special Local 518 moment honoring the life and musical achievements of the architect of rock and roll, Chuck Berry. If it wasn’t for such pioneers as Berry, popular music wouldn’t be where it is today.
All hail Rock and Roll, indeed…
“LET IT ROCK: A TRIBUTE TO CHUCK BERRY” SET LIST
Brown Eyed Handsome Man
Rock and Roll Music
No Particular Place to Go
You Never Can Tell
Talkin’ Bout You
No Money Down
Back in the U.S.A.
Too Much Monkey Business
Run Rudolph Run
Let It Rock
Sweet Little Sixteen
Wee Wee Hours
Reelin’ and Rockin’
House of Blue Lights
You Can’t Catch Me
Roll Over Beethoven
Johnny B. Goode