Minor balls of fire at Fox

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Jerry Lee Lewis turns 75 on Wednesday, but he celebrated four days early with a concert at the Fox Pomona, billed as his 75th birthday party.

It was a wide-ranging audience, from teenagers to seniors, with plenty of younger rockabilly fans in western shirts, jeans with rolled-up cuffs or tattoos. A reported 700 people were in attendance.

After opening sets by Head Cat and the Reverend Horton Heat, Lewis’ band took the stage (sans Lewis) to warm up with four songs.

At 10 p.m. and without fanfare, Lewis walked onstage carefully, clad in an untucked shirt, jeans and loafers, like he’d just wandered in from bingo night. He performed 11 songs. He got better as he went along, and his band gave him excellent support.

“Great Balls of Fire” ended with a nice bit of pounding on the high keys that drove the crowd nuts, a reaction that elicited a smile from the otherwise blank-looking Killer himself. Lewis quipped something that sounded like “I did the one, I might as well do the other,” before launching into his other signature hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Near the end, he slowly rose, gingerly kicked (more accurately, pushed) the piano bench backward and pounded the ivories a few seconds while standing. He then impishly sat on the keyboard before shuffling offstage to a big ovation at 10:40. No encore.

How was he? Definitely diminished in energy, a shadow of his wild-man youth, not to mention his wild-man middle age. Lewis is four years younger than the Fox, but not in as good a shape. But even a shadow of Jerry Lee Lewis is pretty good. As a longtime admirer, I’d say he was worth my $32. (Even if that amounted to almost $1 per minute.) And it’s cool to be able to say, “Jerry Lee Lewis? Yeah, I saw him once.”

Now if the Fox could only get Chuck Berry…

Here’s a more enthusiastic take from the L.A. Times. And below is a video of the last two songs — YouTube, we love you.

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  • shirley wofford

    My husband and I were staying at Humphreys in San Diego about ten years ago when Jerry Lee played in that facility’s outdoor venue. Fortunately, we saw the show free, because our room was located in a section that allowed for a direct view to the stage.

    The local, opening band played about an hour and a half before Jerry came on stage, and when he did, the performance was very fast and short. Jerry Lee’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” has always been my favorite. To my disappointment, he did not perform it that night. I don’t suppose he performed it at your concert either. I must be the only one who loves it so.

    [I don't think that's true, Shirley. But he's had a lot of hits, and he can't play all of them in 40 minutes. While he didn't play "Over the Rainbow" in Pomona, he also didn't get to "Breathless," "High School Confidential," "What Made Milwaukee Famous," etc., etc. -- DA]

  • Gene Harvey

    Hi David,

    Thanks for sharing the Fox/Jerry Lee Lewis experience. I’ve always been a fan of his, but I couldn’t make it to the Fox last Saturday.

    My up-close-and-personal event with Lewis was back in the mid 1980s. He would perform fairly often at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood, a cozy Country and Western place that thrived for years (decades) attracting many big-name talents.

    One evening a friend and I heard that Lewis was going to be there and so we decided to drive in and see him. We decided to add to the fun and adventure of the balmy night by traveling in my restored 1931 Model A Ford. I had learned by then that doormen, or security guards, or whoever would usually let me park near the door and they would keep an eye on it.

    Such was the case this evening. We were near the side door and standing there chatting with some of the employees when none other than Jerry Lee pulls up in a big Cadillac limo. He took one look at my car and said he wanted to trade me straight across, his Caddie for my Ford. We all had a good laugh, and then he said “Hey, I’ll even throw in the chauffeur to go with it.”

    Needless to say, the evening with him and his music was great and I’ll never forget it, but it was made all the more memorable by his trying to trade cars with me.

    [That's a great story, Gene. -- DA]

  • Bob House

    Just read there’s a Jerry Lee Lewis movie in the works with Brad Pitt as the Killer. That ain’t right.

    [You're right. Brad married Angelina, not his 13-year-old cousin! -- DA]