Belterra/India, USA, Belterra Casino (25.02.2006)
Source: Folke Myrvang
Once again it was time for Jerry to play the Belterra Casino. I saw him there in September 2004 and he had not been back since, although he had played there at least once before, so its familiar territory. It is not far from Louisville, KY, Cincinnati, OH and Indianapolis, IA, so it is in the heartland of where his old fans are in the US. Driving up from Louisville, KY takes about 1hr 20 minutes and when you see the Casino up ahead, it is like a fairy tale. It is located in the middle of nowhere and is a piece of Las Vegas in the midwest boondocks.
Getting there, parking and then we start looking for familiar faces. It takes us about 5 minutes of wading through the crowd of midwest adult americans who are obviously primed for a rock'n'roll show before we spot Jens white dress with the imprint of a young Killer on it. We say hello and continue our search for The Lonesome Fiddle Man, who is on site somewhere due to an early arrival. No-one is able to help us locate Ken, so we wind up in the long line of happy campers going in to see the show.
Finally inside the large showroom, I start pestering guards and sound guys to get word backstage to Ken or Buck that I am there, but no one wants to help. Finally, I take matters in my own hands and bolt backstage as the Percy Sledge band takes the stage. Thankfully I run into Buck backstage and we get my friend Niels in there as well to keep him safe from a flock of middle aged American women looking for a date with a reserved seat up front.
We hang out in the dressing room and exchange greetings with other fans and band members, Jeffrey Prater, Matthew Gilliam, Tim and others. The whole band is there and so is JW Whitten and Cecil Harrelson, who I met for the first time that night. As the lights were out in the ballroom, there was no chance in hell to get Jen and her firend backstage, but I am sure they will get their chance on their next trip.
After a while JW and Cecil appear from Jerry's room and point at Buck "your belt" they say and Buck calmly suggests that they should take mine instead as I am not going onstage. "Jerry needs your belt" JW says, snapping his fingers and I oblige, knowing it will be the last I see of it. A few minutes later I am asked into the inner sanctum by JW to deliver a present to Jerry, a sweater with a Norwegian motive. Ken, Buck and JW all try to explain to Jerry who I am, but Jerry grins and says "I know him, I have got the machinegun book by him". "When I come off stage, I will switch belts with you, Killer" he says, obviously aware of where the loot came from. We talk for a couple minutes about the upcoming tour, but Jerry has a flu and is not in a great shape, although he is trying to recover with a large cup of hot coffee.
I dont want to stay in their hair for long, so I excuse myself and Niels and I make our way back to our seats and almost have to fight to get them back. Percy Sledge was done when we got back, but he sounded good from what we heard backstage.
Ken, Buck, BB and Robert get on stage and quickly adjust their artifacts. The first number is Bony Maronie by Ken, followed by Lonely Weekends by Robert, Bye Bye Johnny by BB and Big Boss Man by Buck follow in quick order as the audience of a couple thousand drunk adults are getting restless. The band sounds remarkably tight now and they really rock out. Ken and Buck really shine on their guitars and compliment each other wonderfully. BB and Robert lay down a steady backbeat and this is the best band Jerry has had since 1989 in my opinion. Ken keeps telling the natives that The Killer is in the building. Rumors had gone that there would be no show as Jerry was sick and several people had seen him as he arrived and told others that he didnt look too hot.
Showtime, ladies and gentlemen, the legendary, the Killer, mr Jerry Lee Lewis. Our man enters the stage, guided by JW who has to lead him to the piano. Once seated at the shiny black grand piano, Jerry Lee Lewis is all business. Dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a black shirt with silver stripes, he looks his age, but the fire is still there when he plays and sings. As usual, he reaches out and turns the piano sound dial as far up as it will go. Yeah ! ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN is his first number, no surprise there. The sound is not as loud as we are used to on the piano, something that would continue through the whole show.
YOU WIN AGAIN is the second number, Jerry ends it as usual with his comments on Hank Williams on bended'a knees etc and the audience loves it. Due to his flu, his speaking voice is almost impossible to make out, but he sings clearly. The audience owns The Killer for one night and they scream and holler at him JER-RY, JER-RY, ROCK & ROLL, HADACOL BOOGIE, MEAT MAN, no end to the requests. Jerry takes a short break between each number and sits there and gazes out into the crowd, no doubt thinking how it has been this way for 50 years now.
DRINKIN' WINE SPO'-DEE-O-DEE is the third number, another straight version. Buck calls out for the next number, which brought tears to my eyes, TOUCHING HOME, what a great song - "No longer do I wonder, why men have lost their minds - wound up in a jungle of nothing but flashing neon lights", Hell yeah, the Killer is on track. Another request for whos gonna play this old piano is misheard by the Hawk, he quips back "you cant hear the piano? - I can't even see it myself!!" More hollering, Jerry finally launch into a good version of NO HEADSTONE ON MY GRAVE.
"From my new album" he mutters and play BEFORE THE NIGHT IS OVER ending as usual with L-O-V-E and asks the band "how do you follow a song like that?" He did well, considering the next number is YOU BELONG TO ME in a nice version. After that song he tells the audience that he is sick as a dog, but that is no excuse to miss a show. The audience calls for rock and roll and Jerry throws himself into SWEET LITTLE SIXTEEN.
SHE EVEN WOKE ME UP TO SAY GOODBYE is next, nice version before a request for LITTLE QUEENIE makes it the third Chuck Berry number of the night.
WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN and GREAT BALLS OF FIRE are next, solid versions, Jerry should really close with WLS as he is still good at whipping the audience into a frenzy in the quiet part and then, LET''S GO!! After GBOF he gets up, topples the chair and JW is there to lead him out. Jerry takes his time to greet many of the fans at the stage and many of them get to shake hands with the old master. The band whip it up for a few minutes and then they also have to leave. Ken is staying over, so he comes back out to sign autographs. My belt is most likely in Memphis now............
We meet with Ken a while later and have a couple beers and chat with Jen, her friend and Matthew. We have to leave to get back to Louisville, so we dont stay into the wee hours, but it''s always fun to hear the updates on whatever is going on in the Lewis world. Ken is as anxious as all of us to see the album out, and he has high hopes for it.
Jerry was not in the best shape Saturday, but I think he still did well. He certainly had the audience going and when you see him now at 70 with a bad flu, one can only imagine the shows he put on 50 years ago. At least in the US, the audience has aged with him, but great to see young fans like Jen come out to see the legend.
Still the greatest live show on earth in my opinion, I cant wait to see the shows in Europe'.
Rock on and see ya'll soon.