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Animals - Rock 'n' Roll All Star Jam

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 10 / 1 / 2009

Animals - Rock 'n' Roll All Star Jam


Chris O' Toole finds much that is appealing in the reissue of celebratory 1985 concert 'Rock 'n' Roll Jam', which saw, surrounded by an all-star cast, the billing of two of rock 'n' roll's two greatest performers , Chuck Bery and Bo Diddley

On the billing for this show two of rock 'n' roll's two greatest performers are scheduled to appear together, surrounded by an all-star cast composed of those who they influenced, even created. In reality, it is all Bo Diddley's show throughout this celebratory concert. It is Diddley – the Originator – who drills the super-stars in the basics of rhythm and blues backstage as they practice for the performance, Diddley who masters the ensemble on night, Diddley who rouses the crowds and Diddley who even takes control of the barbeque afterwards. Following in the wake of his death last year the reissue of this concert - originally recorded at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, California in October 1985 - captures the great man on a victory lap – revelling in the success created for himself and countless others. It is as though the concert is a party for the musicians, with the audience a mere coincidence. The DVD includes rehearsal footage, as well as candid scenes of the likes of Mick Fleetwood and Mitch Mitchell enjoying some barbeque ribs on the day of the performance. That said, the crowd is not to go without supper. From the opening bars of 'I'm a Man' – with Bo Diddley looking every inch the classic with a Stetson hat and trademark rectangle guitar – the intensity of the performance never wanes. This is not the same as the Band's 'The Last Waltz' (where each superstar is paraded in turn to take their moment in the spotlight); all the musicians on the bill take the stage simultaneously – creating a frenetic, frantic atmosphere from the outset. Then, any band with four drummers – two of whom are Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience) and Kenny Jones (The Faces) – is born to succeed. As they power through 'I'm A Man' Ronnie Wood smiles like a smoking school boy, and his enthusiasm is mirrored by the cast. This is followed by 'Bo Diddley Put the Rock in Rock 'n' Roll' – modestly about the moment Diddley invented the sound in 1955. With a performance like this, it is difficult to argue, and he describes the power of music sweeping the land transforming all those it encountered. While this account may leave out several key actors in the development of the legend – Diddley lays a pretty strong claim to being the one true innovator. Just as it, however. looks to be turning into a one man show,Chuck Berry strolls onto the stage. Performing 'My Ding-A-Ling' – a song written for the "tots" – and 'Destination', Berry shows a different side of rock 'n' roll. While still a showman, he is sparse in his playing, with each note splintering through the air like shrapnel and leading to a thousand imitators. While this DVD has ostensibly been released to remember Diddley following his death, Berry almost steals the show. Diddley returns for 'Gunslinger', 'Who Do You Love ?' and 'Hey Bo Diddley' (another modest number from the Originator – but it is Berry who closes the show with 'Rock 'n' Roll Music.' Flanked by Ronnie Wood (the only contemporary star who comes close to stealing the limelight from the two main attractions) Chuck Berry taunts the crowd as they bay for more – pure theatre and no less rewarding for it. The final scenes are once again situated around Diddley's barbeque, illustrating the celebratory attitude of the event. The stars on display here, which also include Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys – had nothing left to prove here and were in the mood to celebrate. While the versions of the tracks played are unlikely to be definitive, the camaraderie, musicianship and material on display make for a pleasing, if not revelatory performance.

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