Live At The Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco

Chuck Berry

Mercury 1967

Review by David Bowling


Chuck Berry may not have invented rock and roll all by himself, but he was there at the beginning. He established the guitar as a viable lead instrument and combined a number of styles and rhythms, which formed some of the foundations of rock and roll.

As time passed. Berry developed two bad habits when playing live. He tended to rely on his series of hits recorded during the 1950’s and he travelled without a backing band, instead relying on local bands. This made most of his concerts have a sameness and many of the local groups were inferior musically.

These issues were not present in 1967, when he performed the Fillmore in San Francisco. His set was comprised of mostly blues numbers and light on the usual hits. In addition, he shared the bill with the Steve Miller Band, who remained on stage as his backing band.

Live At The Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco was released in 1967 and has been reissued a number of times. This is one of those occasions when the original release is better off without the bonus tracks.

It is blues tunes that dominate the performance. There is a lot of improvisation rather that just rote performances. There are also a number of slow blues tunes and laid back tempos, which were rare from Berry. In addition The Steve Miller Band with Miller on backing vocals, guitar, and particularly harmonica pushed Berry into one of the better recorded live performances of his career.

“Everyday I Have The Blues,” “Driftin’ Blues.” “Wee Baby Blues,” and “Hoochie Coochie Man” all meander along with some tempo twists and turns. “Everyday I Have To Cry Some” is a brilliant excursion through some Chicago blues.

The rock tunes have a tightness. His own “Feelin’ It” and “Rockin’ At The Fillmore” crackle with energy as he dig’s a little deeper into his catalogue. Even the album ending “Johnny B Good” comes across as a guitar based romp.

Chuck Berry’s career lasted more than six decades and as time passed he was many times taken for granted. If you want a quick lesson into his contributions to rock and roll; any of his Greatest Hits releases will due. If you want a look into his musical soul; then check out Live At The Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco.

Rating: ****