Rockin' His Life Away, Jerry Lee Lewis Shows Signs Of Age
Lonesome, Onry and Mean waited anxiously as the appointed hour neared. We'd had this feeling around this time last year as we awaited the appearance of Shane MacGowan and the Pogues. Would MacGowan die onstage, spilling his drink?
Would he be so drunk he'd make a pathetic fool of himself? We were so relieved when they managed to drive their way through an hour and a half without anything untoward to spoil the event.
After receiving a Facebook alert from BP Fallon late Tuesday afternoon that Jerry Lee Lewis would be performing live on the Internet in 20 minutes, LOM stared at our computer screen, nervously watching the scene at Best Buy in New York City's Union Square as we waited for none other than The Killer to make his entrance.
Of course, we have to cut our lifelong hero Lewis some slack, not only for his age (75), but for his pioneering Sun sessions and his monster rock and roll hits that set the bar as high as it has ever been set. We also have to love the guy for reviving a career and taking off in a completely different direction to re-conquer the world.
Yet even cutting him all kinds of slack, there's not much good that can be said about Lewis's fifteen minute Best Buy performance. The Killer was pale and stooped as he was assisted to his piano bench at 7 p.m. sharp. He wasted no time starting "You Are My Sunshine," but it was immediately apparent that the sound was going to be poor, that the Killer was a pale shadow of his former self, and that the drummer should be hung from the nearest light pole.
Lewis stepped it up with "Rockin' My Life Away," but it was like watching a caricature rather than The Killer. It was like watching a living cliché, and there were bad sounds coming through from a short somewhere, and at one point Lewis growled, "Fix that thing!"
One has to wonder what the Best Buy people were thinking, putting a legend out in front of a crowd with a sound guy who was about as savvy as that Steve Martin character in The Jerk. Surprisingly, no one said, "Get a rope!" Midway through the song, we got a text message from Mike Stinson, who played drums for 18 years: "Someone shoot that drummer! What is this?"
Lewis was courteous and courtly, but he hardly seemed to be basking in the spotlight. He did smile and, in response to a request for "Great Balls of Fire," say, "I've got an easy one I can do for you" as he broke into "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." But again, the sound was tinny, the band seemed almost disinterested, and, at the 14:30 mark, Lewis rose and was helped away from the scene as the two guitar players vamped on the tune.
Fallon later wrote on his Facebook:
"Jerry Lee streamed live from NYC: this frail little thin-wristed man singing 'You Are My Sunshine' in that bourbon-pickled country voice. Then 'Rockin' My Life Away' and he seems so weakened and you can't hear the fucking piano. "Ah don' know 'bout 'Great Balls Of Fire' but ah can do this one easy" and it's into an ...enfeebled old-man reading of 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'.
This cat has seen it all, done it all. And now he's in the twilight of his years. And you still can't hear the fucking piano. I just love this man, for all his madness/badness. Jerry Lee Lewis has made some of the greatest rock'n'roll - and country - music EVER. And now suddenly he's gone from the stage. Jerry Lee is gone. Ah fuck."
Indeed, Mr. Fallon. Indeed.