Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco
Mercury Records 1967
Review by David Bowling
Chuck Berry recently passed away bringing an end to the career of one of rock and roll’s legendary musicians. Berry was one of the originators of the rock and roll guitar sound. Beginning in 1955 with his hit single “Maybelline,” and followed by the likes of “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock And Roll Music,” “Johnny B Goode,” Sweet Little Sixteen,” and “Back In The USA; he not only changed the face of American music but American culture as well.”
His singles remain the core of his legacy. His studio albums were many times cobbled together with a few brilliant singles and a number of covers. Many of his live albums were lackadaisical affairs, which reflected his concerts as time passed. He did not travel with his own group but would use local bands to back him, which reduced the quality of his performances significantly.
Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, may be the best live recording of his career. His backing band was The Steve Miller Blues Band before they became famous. They were an excellent blues band who was able to push Berry and he responded.
The original album was also well thought out. It was meant to be a blues/rock album and in that regard it succeeded. Reissues of the album include such songs as “Reelin’ And Rockin,’” “Good Morning Little School Girl,” and “My Ding-A-Ling,” all of which weaken the release. What was originally issued are basically blues songs, which make it one of the more unique and enjoyable Chuck Berry albums.
Beginning with a medley of “Rockin’ At The Fillmore” and “Everyday I Have The Blues;” he romps through “Driftin’ Blues,” “”Hoochi Coochi Man,” “”Flying Home,” and “Wee Baby Blues.” After years of listening to his impeccable singles, these blues songs present a rougher sound, which is a good way to dig deeper into his legacy.
Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco finds a forty year old Chuck Berry sweating and working hard. It is a good way to remember and appreciate him a half-century later.