His eyes still had that crazed sparkle about them. His hair looked as untamed as ever (and real, too). Even saddled with a cane, his swagger as he walked out on stage in a blade-silvery jacket suggested he's still a man who doesn't care what you think of him.
It wasn't until Jerry Lee Lewis manically rolled his fingers across the piano ivories and howled out a shivering "woooh!" that the 2,500 fans on hand Saturday night at Treasure Island Resort & Casino could confirm it: The last of rock 'n' roll's earliest Mount Rushmore-level pioneers had truly entered the building.
Lewis, 82, seemingly came back from the dead for this gig. Seriously, the show — only his second one of 2018 — just didn't seem possible. It'd been over a decade since The Killer last performed in the area, and he famously had a few tempestuous decades before that.
Especially after both Chuck Berry and Fats Domino passed away last year, most Minnesota fans had figured the time to see last-man-standing Lewis had long since passed. (Only a Little Richard gig might compare at this point.)
There Lewis was, though, walking out on stage Saturday after a four-song introductory set by his MVP band, with his same guitar player of the past five decades, Kenny Lovelace. He also brought along renowned session drummer Kenny Aronoff, who had performed outside Treasure Island just last month with John Fogerty.
Simply seeing ol' Jerry Lee again may have been the show's biggest thrill. But there was more to it than just living-museum excitement — not a lot, but enough.
Not counting that introduction by the band, Lewis' performance clocked in at just over 30 minutes. The brevity was disappointing, of course, but not surprising.
The show was also light on hits. He played "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On" — delivered back-to-back as the finale, and mighty feisty in each case — but not "High School Confidential," "Breathless," "Chantilly Lace" or (perhaps for good reason) his version of Berry's "Sweet Sixteen."
Fans of the Sun Records-era Lewis did get a taste of other early cuts at the start of the set, though. He opened with the Roy Orbison-originated "Down the Line," bounced through the roadhouse standard "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" and then slowed the tempo down with "You Win Again."
That Hank Williams classic set up a run of country-tinged tunes in the middle of his 10-song performance, when things at once got more rickety but also felt less by-the-numbers.
As he worked his way through "She Only Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye" — a highlight from his late-'60s conversion to the country charts — plus another twangy Mickey Newbury-penned nugget, "Why You Been Gone So Long," Lewis' voice weakly croaked at times. But at least he was working it, singing those songs with heart if not power.
His piano playing throughout the show was even heartier. He plunked the keys with a steady, swinging rhythmic punch and doled out fanciful solos and fills here and there that served as spine-tingling presence-of-greatness reminders.
As he stood up near the end of "Whole Lot of Shakin'," Lewis' piano bench tipped over with a thud to the stage. It looked like he accidentally bumped it rather than intentionally kicked it over, like in the old days. Either way, we'll take it.