By Larry Widen, Special to   Published Jun 09, 2015 at 12:06 PM

Veteran blues rocker George Thorogood brought his rowdy, roughneck rock and roll show to the Riverside Theater on Monday night, performing in front of 1,450 fans. Currently on tour in support of his new CD "George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers," Thorogood mixed crowd pleasers such as "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" and "Move It On Over" with a healthy dose of original material like "Bad to the Bone" and "I Drink Alone." 

At first pass, the phenomenal success that Thorogood has enjoyed these 40 years can be puzzling. He’s not the best guitarist, nor is he the best vocalist. All of the numbers start off with a sledgehammer drumbeat and a guitar intro that sounds like a rusty chain saw biting into a hardwood log.

The Destroyers themselves are a competent bar band who live on covers of songs by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker, to name a few. And one thing is certain; the Delaware Dog wouldn’t make it past Round One on "American Idol." His crushed gravel voice and limited range are the complete antithesis of the vanilla, cookie-cutter elevator music that "Idol" and other reality TV musical contest shows churn out year after year.  

In short, this band could easily get lost on the county fair and bowling alley show circuit. Why then does George Thorogood’s popularity remain so strong after all this time?

The answer is showmanship. Whatever musical skill Thorogood may lack is more than compensated for by his ability to instantly connect with an audience. He’s got charisma and personality to burn, a fact that becomes evident the moment he walks on stage. "How sweet it is," he says while pointing, strutting, mugging and posing for pictures.

Thorogood’s megawatt smile nearly cracks his face in two as he lets the north of 50 aged crowd get a good look at him.  "It’s great to be with people who work for a living in this county," he shouts before launching into "Get a Haircut (and Get a Real Job)."

It is Thorogood’s gift that he’s able to bridge the gulf between audience and performer simply by leveling the playing field. His every action transmits a palpable "I’m no better than anyone here" vibe. And so, when George strides up to the microphone and shouts, "Are you with me?," the crowd vociferously responds in the affirmative. "Well, then, away we go!"

For a solid 90 minutes, Thorogood entertained the Riverside crowd with a set list that included "Twenty Dollar Gig," "House Rent Boogie," "Gear Jammer" and "Rock Party." He wore a Wisconsin Live Music t-shirt and peppered those songs with references to beer, cheese, Milwaukee and the venue itself.

He bragged that he would do everything in his power to get arrested and declined to take any responsibility for his actions onstage. Coming from some singers, those boasts might be harbingers of a violent evening. But Thorogood delivered them with a wink and a grin, assuring his fans that this rock and show was all in good fun and that Lonesome George was about as dangerous as Tom Sawyer.