NOTE: Freelance writer Jason Duarte books shows in Elgin and Chicago, is part of a band and occasionally blogs about the local music scene (usually Wednesdays) on Between the Bylines.
Octogenarian rock n' roll icon Chuck Berry collapsed in disappointment at his keyboard about an hour into his set on New Year's Day at the Congress Theater in Chicago.
Chuck Berry, before collapsing Sunday at the Congress Theater in Chicago
He opened the show with "Roll Over Beethoven," but it quickly took a turn for the worse as Berry would just stop playing mid-song. He became obviously frustrated with his backing band, whom he never practiced with.
The band seemed to do everything it could to follow Berry, but it wasn't enough. Berry kept changing songs mid-song and then tuned his guitar for half the show, either stalling or being legitimately out-of-tune the entire time. He walked over to the keyboard player, and would hit the keys, to tune to the notes and then told the keyboard player his keyboard was the one out of tune.
"I'm not saying it's your fault," Berry said.
It was horribly sad witnessing an 84-year-old man's intent and then watching him struggle and fail to deliver. He walked over to the keyboard, sat down and started playing/hitting keys, and then slammed his hand on some low notes and put his head down for a minute before being walked off stage by the Chicago Fire Department.
When he came back out later, he said he had "no strength." He looked defeated.
We were all thanked for coming out. Most of the people left. My friends and I stuck around with a bunch of others, and towards the back of the stage, Chuck suddenly walks out, puts his guitar on, and tries to play.
What happened next, after the jump.