Jerry Lee Lewis at the Apollo

By Paul Taylor - Monday, 1st March 2004
           THERE it was in a split-second - the gesture which minted the idea of rock'n'roll mayhem. Jerry Lee Lewis stood up and shrugged the piano stool away from him, sending it flying across the stage.
           He turned round to survey his handiwork, looking not like the rock'n'roll vandal of his youth, but more like an old man who feared he may have disgraced himself at a family party. He sat down on the piano keyboard (another strange Lewis trademark) a couple of times, did a desultory shuffling dance and then exited, leaving the band to finish off Great Balls Of Fire.
           We had been in the presence of a living legend - indeed the only survivor of Sun Records' "Million Dollar Quartet" alongside Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins - for just 47 minutes.
           The 68-year old singer had ambled out in charcoal suit, looking like a minister coming to the pulpit, only those serpentine eyes betraying The Killer of old. He sat down at the grand piano and launched into Roll Over Beethoven. The voice was still there, if not quite as rabble-rousing these days. And the piano-bashing was certainly up to scratch.
           In the old days Jerry Lee Lewis's whole body seemed a bundle of nervous energy. Now, just the spidery fingers fluttering over the upper octaves betray that restless spirit. On through You Win Again, Midnight Special, Chantilly Lace, a grinding, bluesy version of Lucille, he arrived at Whole Lotta Shakin's Goin' On - Lewis's first UK hit in 1957 - to the delight of the half-full theatre.
           The old flame seemed to burn briefly, with that malevolent snarl returning to his voice, flickered on through Great Balls Of Fire, then it, and Jerry Lee, were gone.

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