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George Thorogood and The Destroyers: Live In Boston, 1982: The Complete Concert

01-12-2021 | By Tom Gibbs | Issue 113

I was a total rock radio hound from the seventies through the eighties; I really stood up and noticed George Thorogood and The Destroyers when "Bad To The Bone" first hit the airwaves—especially his over-the-top guitar playing. The song (and George Thorogood) became a point of frequent discussion between my friends and me, who mostly digested a heavy diet of guitar-fueled rock and prog. Shortly after its release, "Bad To The Bone" was playing at a party where my best friend Steve's girlfriend Stephanie was talking about what a joke the song was; "You don't really like this song do you? It's a completely b.s. macho joke!" I defended the tune, saying that Thorogood's guitar playing had serious street cred, and was about as authentically imbued with the blues-rock tradition as it gets. The discussion expanded to a round-robin between Steve, myself, and several other attendees at the gathering, where we discussed the merits of "Bad To The Bone" at length. Afterwards, I fully embraced George Thorogood throughout the remainder of the eighties; I was also particularly fond of his 1985 song "I Drink Alone," although the conclusion of the eighties found The Destroyers pretty much dropping off my constant rotation radar.

As I mentioned in my review of Craft Recordings' Black Friday Record Store Day offerings last issue, one of their scheduled slate of RSD releases, George Thorogood and The Destroyers' Live In Boston, 1982: The Complete Concert, unfortunately fell victim to unavoidable production delays. And of course, the delays prevented the four-LP set from arriving in stores on time for RSD on Black Friday, November 27th of last year. Craft had already released the digital files for the set in October (the original Record Store Date) for streaming on Qobuz and Tidal, along with all the major services, and it marked the very first time the complete concert had ever been made available in any form. This new set also offers the complete concert on LP for the first time ever, as well—27 tracks in all scattered over four LPs.

George Thorogood and The Delaware Destroyers formed in their hometown of Wilmington, Delaware in the seventies; within a few years, they had relocated to Boston, which became their new hometown, and the group dropped the "Delaware" descriptor from their name. The band's lineup at the point of the current recording consisted of George Thorogood on guitar [of course!], Billy Blough on bass, Hank "Hurricane" Carter on saxophone, and Jeff Simon on drums. They were very quickly embraced by Boston fans, and developed a massive following in Beantown. Their 1977 self-titled debut album and its follow up, 1978's Move It On Over—both recorded for Boston-based Rounder Records—rapidly moved up the charts, and solidified the band's national reputation. The Destroyers opened for the Rolling Stones and appeared on Saturday Night Live, in support of their recently released Bad To The Bone album, which placed them firmly in the mainstream of rock radio. I don't think I can honestly remember getting through a day in the eighties into the nineties without hearing a George Thorogood song over the airwaves. A year prior to the Boston show, the Destroyers had embarked on a "fifty shows in fifty states in fifty days" tour, where they actually did play all fifty states in fifty stays—quite the feat of endurance! This concert served as a triumphal homecoming to Boston; The Destroyers hadn't played there in over a year, and were riding a wave of MTV and rock radio-fueled national popularity.

The concert was recorded in what was then Boston's Bradford Ballroom on the night of November 23, 1982, the week of Thanksgiving. While I never saw the group live, it became very clear to me early on that Thorogood was very much the storyteller. That's abundantly clear on Live In Boston, whether through his own songs or those by blues greats such as John Lee Hooker's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer," Elmore James' "The Sky Is Crying," or Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" And even with Hank Williams' "Move It On Over," which was the title track from The Destroyer's second album. Thorogood sings and talks his way through all these classic tunes, giving many of them spoken introductions and embellishments that greatly enhance the studio versions. And many of the verses and choruses are amplified with Boston-centric adornments that really help to get the already enthusiastic crowd thoroughly engaged in the performance. On many of the call and repeat songs, like "One Bourbon, One Scotch" and "Move It On Over," the crowd sings the required response without prompt—at points, even Thorogood seems surprised that they know all the words!

The press release information for Live In Boston, 1982: The Complete Concert referred to the set as being available on "four 180 gram LPs," along with a limited edition (strictly limited to 1,800 copies) pressed on red marbled-vinyl 140 gram LP available for "Black Friday" only. My review copy arrived as standard-weight black-vinyl LPs, which are probably (in actuality) closer to 120 grams. No worries, because there's no real practical advantage to the heavier weight vinyl found in most typical current releases, other than that they generally arrive with a lower likelihood of warpage as compared to standard-weight LPs. The LPs were pressed by MPO in France, and arrived in an enhanced Z-fold, nicely constructed tip-on jacket, with the LPs encased in Craft's new rice paper sleeves (a very nice touch). The LP surfaces were exceptionally glossy with no scuffs, and each has a very distinctive center label featuring stylized stills of George Thorogood taken from the concert on one side, with track information for the LP listed on the opposite side. All four LPs were perfectly razor flat, and played with virtually no trace of any noise—all in all, about as good as it gets!

Craft's website listed no information for the limited edition marbled red vinyl release, although I was able to find a few mentions here and there elsewhere on the web. When production delays were encountered, it appears to have not been made available for pre-order online, and was delivered directly to independent record stores on December 18th. Which was several weeks later than the actual Record Store Day on Black Friday in 2019, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if some copies are still lingering in the racks of your favorite indie record shop. If my experience with recent Craft colored-vinyl pressings holds true for this release, it was very likely pressed on 140 gram vinyl by MPO, which seems to be the norm for everything else I've received from them of late. Surprisingly—and despite the enhanced limited edition collectability of the red marbled vinyl issue—it carries the same MSRP as the standard release version.

All listening was done through my usual analog front end, which features a ProJect Classic turntable fitted with a Hana SL moving coil cartridge, with the signal fed into a Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+ phono preamp that's powered by a Michael Yee linear power supply. A recent addition to that setup includes a new Funk Firm Achromat platter mat that adds a significant level of clarity to the LP playback experience. The PrimaLuna EVO 300, EL-34 based tube integrated power amplifier playing in ultra-linear mode provided power to my Magneplanar LRS loudspeakers, and the sound quality throughout the experience was never less than thrilling. 

While some probably view George Thorogood as a dinosaur of the Classic Rock era, Live In Boston, 1982: The Complete Concert is a high-energy performance, and a totally satisfying document of the power he held as a storyteller and legitimate purveyor of credible blues-rock. Surprisingly, the band lineup of The Destroyers is remarkably unchanged over all these years; Hurricane Carter dropped out in 2003 and was replaced by Buddy Leach, and rhythm guitarist Jim Suhler joined the band in 1999. As hardworking as this unit is, it's astonishing that the core group has remained together since the seventies. 

The four-LP set plays like a greatest hits package for George Thorogood and The Destroyers. I bookended my LP listening with the CD-quality digital files available on Qobuz, and the sound was nothing less than superb; a double CD version of the concert is also available. Highly recommended!

George Thorogood and The Destroyers: Live In Boston, 1982: The Complete Concert. Four standard LPs: $69.99 MSRP.  Four 140 gram red marbled-colored vinyl LPs: $69.99 MSRP.

Available from Craft Recordings.

All images courtesy of Craft Recordings.