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.