Hold On To Your Hips:
Chubby Checker 2007
Live at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA Sept. 1, 2007




Concert Review by
Jen Bond

A packed house twisting with Chubby Checker on Labor Day weekend. Not just while he was singing The Twist, Let's Twist Again, Twistin' USA, or Slow Twistin', but a twisting crowd throughout the entire duration of two back-to-back shows at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA.

I pretty much have two left feet and don't particularly enjoy dancing. Most times, I feel like Elaine Bennis' twin sister, jerking around and hoping that no one is watching or camcording. But admittedly, I was twisting with Chubby, too. You really can't contain it. It's the legendary Chubby Checker, and he's immediately engaging, noticeably observant, and commanding of energy.

The 67-year-old Checker is a physically-fit powerhouse, with a gigantic gleaming smile, smooth tan complexion, and muscular frame. His dance is incessant, both on the stage and as he glides through his audience to the music of his punctuated, class-act band of middle-aged rockers. The blow of bone chilling saxophone carves his path. But Chubby's presence is about more than twisting, gleaming, gliding, and impressing with peaked performance.

Chubby knows what his fans are wishing. If you want the chance to touch his hand, give a big bear hug, or quickly whisper your dire message in the ear of the only recording artist ever to have 5 albums in the Top 12 at once, you've got it. No matter where you are perched, Chubby lingers just long enough to meet you. Tall, burly, and still sporting his tight-fitting jeans, Checker is incredibly talented at gathering and giving big love and appreciation.

He reaches out to the seniors who lived through his fame; to the parents who were glued to his twist on the tube; and to grammar school idols who instinctively know to shake their shoulders to The Limbo Rock and shout out the lyrics to Rock Around the Clock. Everyone receives a refresher course on how to do The Fly. All generations sway to covers of Fats Domino, The Beatles, and Chuck Berry. Checker's connection to his crowd of all ages is magical, tear jerking at times.

And when it's time for the big number, the twice #1 hit, Checker doesn't perform The Twist alone. Of the 5,000 plus people spanning the two evening shows, about 100 leave the amphitheater saying: I twisted on stage with Chubby Checker. First, 50 girls and women flood the stage; then, 50 boys and men. Checker singles out the best hip shakers, ordering them forward onto a projected stage platform. One by one, a lone twister's moment of glory entertains the masses. Laughter, surprise, pure elation! Sometimes Checker partakes in the twisting. Sixty-year-old twisting hips; 6-year-old twisting hips. A finale of the most talented and most hysterical twisters. You can hear them walking to their cars, on the cell phones the next day: I twisted on stage with Chubby Checker. Checker playfully tosses each lone twister back to the crowd, enough glory for you! He lures up a new twister. Thousands of people cheer; the crowd twists even harder. I twisted on stage with Chubby Checker.

Any star can sing and dance his career-breaking hit. To let others perform it with you, for you, is unselfishly unforgettable. Chubby Checker's stage, filled with love and adoration.

The show ends with as much hand slapping and shaking as Checker can extend from the edge of his platform. Hundreds quickly line up for photos and autographs with Checker, and he accommodates, in his fluffy blue performance robe. Dressed for the nighttime, and anything but tired. Still gleaming, beaming, and generous, Checker gives each soul in line a lengthy amount of attention.

I approach the merchandise table, catching a glimpse of Checker's 2007 Billboard Adult Charts hit Knock Down These Walls. That's 48 years of high-energy performance, hit songs, twisting, and "dancing apart from the beat." I'm half Chubby's age, and as I wipe the sweat from my brow and painfully inch my way toward a largely inviting and radiant grin, I'm wishing I didn't wear these flimsy summer sandals for my introduction to twisting.

Dolly Tsilis, Jen Bond,
Chubby Checker and Leon Tsilis

Concert photos: Dolly Tsilis, Jen Bond

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