It’s been more than 30 years since New York DJ Alan Freed christened Bo Diddley’s audacious music “rock ‘n’ roll,” but Bo’s classic style sounds as fresh and liberating as ever. Diddley combined an ear for tradition with a razor-sharp urban wit and devilish irreverence; he adapted the hip street slang and signifying of 50s black America and laid it over his trademark “Diddley beat” (an elaboration on the folk “hambone” rhythm), creating subversive, militant music that terrified middle-class traditionalists and jazz sophisticates alike. In recent years he’s mostly confined himself to reworking his classics, doing an occasional blues or pop tune when the mood strikes. Unlike his contemporary Chuck Berry, though, Diddley brings total commitment to his material, making it sound perennially new. His stage presence is riveting; glaring imperiously out from under the brim of a silver-studded western hat, wielding his guitar with gunslinger swagger, and firing off searing bursts of energy in his solos, Bo continues to personify the brazen iconoclasm that’s at the heart of rock ‘n’ roll. Saturday, B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont; 525-8989.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.