It’s August 1985 and the news in Toronto is all about the possibility of it raining on Bruce Springsteen who is touring the biggest album on the planet – Born In The USA. Thing is, the rain arrives a day early, and the CNE Grandstand has a totally different show going on that night. George Thorogood and the Destroyers with Johnny Winter opening are set to perform.
Drew and I left from the pool I lifeguarded at in total sunshine and headed down to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds with tickets that put us only seven rows from the stage. With some sense of over geeky enthusiasm I remarked how it looked like the rain would hold off. Drew, always the master of understated sarcasm raised an eyebrow glanced at the sky and shook his head in that “you don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground” way.
Johnny Winter hits the stage and the wind picks up. His set is phenomenal as his hands fly all over the neck of his guitar. I had known he was good, but WOW! This was damn impressive. He left the stage as the sun dipped out of site in the west and some dark clouds started to roll in quickly from the south.
Thorogood and the destroyers took the stage and started rocking out right away. I wish I could remember the setlist, but it was thirty years ago. What I do remember is that about 30 minutes into the set, the sky opened up and the rain drops were the size of quarters. The wind was blowing the water right into stage.
A drenched Thorogood looked out into the crowd as his band tried to step further towards the back of the stage and hollered “Does anyone want to hear some blue?” and the crowd replied with cheers. He broke into “The Sky Is Crying” and he just didn’t stop. Between songs a guitar tech would hand him a dry guitar and into another song he would go. The crowd was having a fantastic time and no one was leaving. The band that had initially tried to find shelter further down stage came forward and challenged Mother Nature to a duel. Over 90 minutes in the rain and they just kept playing until the damn sky cleared… and then, they did encores.
By all rights, Thorogood could have stopped the show and probably should have. Electric guitars and rain don’t mix, but this “nut job” musician was committed to putting on a great rock ‘n’ roll show, and he succeeded beyond the crowds wildest dreams.
In later years my taste in music changed and George got less and less of my time on the stereo, but when people would talk about the best concerts they ever went to, this still sits as the #1.
On Record Store Day Thorogood re-released his debut album, except in a way never before heard. It was originally recorded without a bass guitar. Initially the destroyers billed themselves as “the original five-piece trio” and this record reflects that. It is a trip to hear “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer”, “Madison Blues” and “Ride On Josephine” as they were done in those first recordings back in the mid-seventies.
Anyway, I haven’t found an amount issued, but it is limited and on blue vinyl. I still saw copies kicking around on Sunday, but I wouldn’t wait if you’re interested.