Concert Experience: Chuck Berry at the Congress Theatre

Concert Experience: Chuck Berry at the Congress Theatre

Chuck Berry is one of the founders and pioneers of rock n’ roll, so when I found out he was playing at Congress Theater on New Years Day, I knew I had to go. That night I learned a lot about who this legendary artist is and what performing music is really all about.  Most importantly, I learned that if you really love what you’re doing nothing will stand in your way, even age.

Chuck Berry only performed for a short time at the Congress Theater in Chicago on New Year's Day. | Scott Stewart Sun-Times Media

Chuck Berry, 84, is still rockin’ harder than some current young rock stars, and I say that about a guy who needed help walking on stage to his guitar. Berry is performing in big shows when a lot of people his age can barely get around or are in nursing homes.

He moves around the stage, still shows animation, and even though his singing voice has almost evolved into a talking voice, when he reaches some choruses that singing voice we all are familiar with can still be dusted off and heard.

The show kicked off with “Roll Over Beethoven”, a single released in 1956.  Chuck really moved his fingers, feet, and body during that solo, stimulating the diverse crowd to dance and cheer.

After about four songs, Chuck stopped playing saying his guitar was out of tune. After attempting and then failing to re-tune it, he claimed that it must be the electric piano and not his guitar that was the issue. You couldn’t help but smile after that remark.

Then things got a little weird.

He plopped down at the piano after shooing the pianist out of the seat so he could play. Chuck played for a moment then suddenly collapsed. It was quite a scary moment for everyone watching. Thankfully he regained consciousness and started to make his way towards playing guitar again, and did so for a bit. Later he said he felt he was 15 years old playing that piano.

Shortly following the incident, he went off stage to be examined by doctors and to the crowd’s dismay, he was not cleared to come back to play.

Chuck came back on stage to explain to the viewers what was happening and despite the doctors’ orders (read the official statement about his condition here), tried to resume playing his guitar. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t last very long; the doctors promptly ended the show by taking his guitar.

Mr. Berry apologized, saying that he felt like he was 70 years old, and could easily continue to play but ‘they’ wouldn’t let him. As he left the stage, he performed his infamous duck walk.

That was the most inspiring moments I have ever seen in a musical performance. I have seen Paul McCartney sing “Let it Be” with a single candle lit atop of his piano, with absolutely no one else singing, but this was definitely more moving than that.

Knowing how long Chuck has been doing shows decade after decade makes me reevaluate my life. Am I doing what I really love? Would I still want to be doing this at age 84? If I collapsed, would the first thing I want to do is my job?

Thanks Chuck. What a way to start 2011.


Photo Credit Marc Andrew Deley/Getty Images
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