Busted Flat in Detroit

The man, dressed in a black t-shirt, khaki pants and worn loafers, was standing in front of me. He looked rattled, as if someone had just told him a friend decided to leave town.

Yeah, left town. The friend was cash from this man=s pocket.

This gentleman, not more than 35 years old, sporting a black beard riddled with pockets of visible skin, was smoking Marlboro Lights as fast as he could breath. But he was not enjoying the leisurely drag-and-exhale rhythm of a relaxed smoker.

Nope, this man was in the suck-and-blow zone, holding the burning cigarette between his third and fourth fingers of his left hand.

A trembling left hand.

The trembling undoubtedly was related to the $1,200 he had just lost.

Lost may be the wrong word. He knew where it was, what hole it had gone into. It was in someone else=s pocket

The man in black turned and walked my direction, rushing by, going somewhere, eyes looking past me. Maybe he was headed to an ATM machine.

***

While Las Vegas is the glittering land of opportunity, both grand and false, and all of Nevada calls casino gambling legal, Detroit is holding onto hope that casino gambling can cure one of the city=s main diseases – the lack of reasons for people to visit one of the nation=s largest cities.

Within the last 12 months, a decrepit Detroit has become home to a pair of full-fledged, land-locked, could-be-Vegas-after-a-few-drinks gambling establishments. The MGM and the Motor City Casino have invaded territory once and still crumbling, giving Detroiters a reason to believe their city may still be alive. But like Atlantic City before it, Detroit may have simply turned a couple of old buildings into places for state residents to give their money away.

While those who like the idea of casinos in Detroit point towards Canadian city neighbor Windsor as a reason to have gambling (Windsor had casino gambling for a few years before Detroit residents voted to have some too, fearing they were missing out on a giant windfall), one trip to Detroit=s slot and table establishments seems to make one thing clear.

Tourism isn=t what is winning.

No, nearly all of the auto license plates in the new Motor City Casino parking garage are from Michigan. There is no on-site hotel. Both casinos are in situated on a well-worn Grand River Boulevard, hardly a sparkling street full of pedestrian traffic.

Those doing most of the gambling on this particular Wednesday night were residents of the city, and commuters who lived close enough to drive a couple hours back home.

Not that any of the experience is wrong. Hey, it=s your money. Spend it any way you want. Only not everybody starts with the same amount of cash, and those who lose the most usually have the most.

***

Let=s wander over this way, towards the valley of the small-time gambler. The nickel slots, tucked into faraway corners of the first and second floor of the four floor Motor City Casino, are populated predominately by women, though most look like they can afford to lose a couple bucks and still be able to buy a cheeseburger or three on the way home. Coins clink into the metal slot machine trays, lot of noise signifying little profit. A top-end jackpot on these machines might net a player 1,000 nickels – 50 bucks.

Quarter slots are very everywhere, as are 50 cent and dollar slot machines. Most of the folks hopping from machine to machine don=t seem to excited to be playing, other than a twenty-something African-American fellow who spins and wins $600 on a dollar machine as I walk by.

AI=m out, dude. No kidding, I=m done,@ he tells a friend standing alongside as the machine spits out his winnings.

Really, we=re out,@ he repeats, trying to convince himself he needs to quit.

But most people playing don=t get to make that kind of decision. After a couple hours, and a hole $140 deep, I have begun searching for interesting people to watch. I have reached by self-imposed limit and it is time to find others who lose better than I.

***

Sitting at a blackjack table alongside the woman with silver hoop earrings, gorgeous jet black hair and a low cut black dress is a man who could be president. He looks like Bill Clinton, with the same coifed gray hair, similar bit of a bulb nose, and a seemingly endless supply of cash.

Sporting a denim shirt with a button-down collar, here is a guy who thinks he has it going on. While the woman is not with him, he glances at her, especially when he wins a hand. He is betting enough on each hand to make my house payment.

This guy is playing blackjack at a table marked with a A$100 minimum@ placard. He starts most deals with $300 per hand, and he is playing two hands.

He is losing, and doing it consistently.

The woman is not glancing back. Through one rack of cards, lasting no more than ten minutes, he puts more than $5,000 on the table, any is down about $2,000 in the few minutes I have been standing three steps behind him, centered between him and the lady.

Were it not for one spectacular hand that saw him win $800, he would have lost close to $5,000 as I watched. Ten minutes. Lots of green chips, worth 100 buck each, went into the

casino=s rack. Twice, when he lost both of his $300 dollar hands, the Bill Clinton look alike turned around, making eye contact with me. Like it was my fault.

And maybe it was, because it sure was compelling to watch someone lose that much money.

***

But even the thrill of success found through watching other fools Ago toilet@ with their money gets old. Four hours in a room with no clocks, no windows, and no free drinks is enough when you are not winning money. So I left.

On the way out of the building, passing the last row of table games, I spot the man in black again. He=s must still be losing, because he is spinning his body 180 degrees just as I walk by. He must have been dealt a bad hand. His luck must still be bad, because he has the same third-and-fourth finger shaky hold on his Marlboro Light and is still sucking and blowing, as if the harder he smokes, the more quickly his money will magically reappear.

Shoot, maybe he won it all back. He was still playing as I swung the double glass doors open to a lit parking garage. Making tracks towards my car, a man in a tattered Detroit Lions shirt is standing at the end of a parking row. As I walk past him, he asks if I have a dollar. I say Asorry, not today.@

But buddy, just inside the glass doors, that=s where the money is. But most of it isn=t coming into the parking lot tonight. Or any night.

And just for fun, watch a Detroit legend….

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Live Super Bowl Blog – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

 Tom Petty at Super Bowl – Here’s my riff on the Super Bowl halftime

7:31pm
Remember when the Super Bowl selection of Tom Petty was getting a bad rap early on  – a couple months ago.  Apathy or even some distaste.  (“Tom Petty?  Wha?”)  I think ‘who else are they going to get?’.  Look at the recent history: Paul McCartney, U2, Rolling Stones, Prince.  That’s the biggest of the big in classic rock.  The only one left is Springsteen, and he must have said no, because he is in the midst of his “Magic” tour. 

Tom Petty is one of the great singer-songwriters in rock music.  Ever.  Quit arguing.

Underappreciated, in an odd way. 
 
Tons of hits, and an enviable May -December fan base.  He has garnered a next-generation of fans as well as anyone in rock and roll.  “Free Fallin’ went a long way towards helping him pick up a second wave of fans.  Even though it was 18 years ago, it gives him a set of fans who are in their 30’s as well as a big 40 and 50-year old groups.
 
But still underappreciated.  He ain’t got the movie star looks for sure; more like the Florida redneck rocker he really is.  I love his integrity, his tunes, and his band.  I am looking forward to this.
 
7:56pm
I saw something on YouTube recorded from a cell phone during Friday’s Petty rehearsal.  I think “I Won’t Back Down” and “American Girl” will be in the set.  He gets about 18 minutes.  Tom said they are approaching it like a 1960’s tour, where five bands used to get about 15-20 minutes to make an impression before getting back on the tour bus and heading to a town like Erie, PA. 
 
8:03pm
Opens with “American Girl”  A song from his first record, and still one of my favorites.  Great story about Roger McGuinn, the leader of the Byrds, who heard the song from his manager  and asked “when did we record this?”  and  had to be told it wasn’t the Byrds but Petty, someone new at the time. 

Cool imagery of the giant arrow going into the heart on the field.  I like it that Petty still uses his older artwork as his branding…the band sounds really good,  though Tom a little nervous to be playing in front of 190 gazillion people, with just four songs to be great. 


FACT: The band opened with this song at Live Aid in 1985, another mega-millions audience.

“I Won’t Back Down” is second.  A nice version  yet not my fave and a little pedestrian, but also one of their more well-known songs.  I think it allowed everyone to settle in – band and crowd…

FACT: Read on a blog that the whole show/stage got set up in 7 minutes.
 
“Free Fallin'”  is third.  Probably his anthem…love it  when he plays the Fender Telecaster guitar. This song is his “Purple Rain” …Like John Fogerty, Petty’s voice is as good now as ever, and sounds more nuanced and he hasn’t lost much…..I love it too that this performance isn’t fake vocals, hidden keyboards, and prerecorded tracks.  It is a great band, playing live, and a pretty good sound mix too.  We can hear all the instruments, and the drums are loud enough to push, but don’t overpower.
 
“Running Down A Dream” comes fourth….and at this point I would rather watch a concert than the game for a while, but this has to be their last song.  Band is loose now, and smiling.    Mike Campbell, the Heartbreakers longtime guitarist, is incredible.  Responsible for much of the trademark Petty sound and is the secret weapon that many forget about.  He is on fire with his guitar work.
 
And it is over. A big jammin’ finish and stage bow.
 
I would say it was just what you would hope from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  It sounded freakin’ terrific, they looked like old guys who can still rock.   The songs were quinessential Petty – rock radio faves for the crowd.  Will be interesting to see the reviews.  They will all be some variation of this:  Sounded great.  They looked old.  It rocked anyway.  Wished they played something else.  Crap like that.
 
Yes, “the Waiting” or “Refugee” or “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” would have been good.  But so would have “Breakdown” or “Even The Losers” or Insider” or “Name Any Song In His Catalog”. 
 
He’s Tom Petty.  It’s 30 years down the road from his first album.  I’m not to worried about saying he did Petty fans proud, and if some say it wasn’t that great, They are wrong. He delivered.  Again. 
 
FACT: I went to YouTube after writing this, and there were hundreds of people who had looked up the songs Petty had played and left comments on those pages. That’s the power of the Super Bowl translating into activity for your brand – in this case the Petty/Heartbreakers brand.  Remember too, someone doesn’t get this far without some marketing sense. Petty just announced his summer tour.  The band comes to Indianapolis July 3 at Deer Creek/Verizon Wireless Music Center.  Tickets are on sale…

Column – Endurance in Circles: Behind My Scenes at the Brickyard 400

By Rob Nichols

Quick. What are the first things that you think of when I say the word “endurance”?

Competing in a triathalon?

Running in the Boston Marathon?Try attending a NASCAR race. The hottest spectator sport in the country means many hundreds of thousands of sweaty, beer-swigging, rather loud folks whoopin’ it up.You see, now I know what going to a race is all about. When the stock car boys and their fans came to Indianapolis last week, I was there, sweating, get sunburned and taking notes.Though not the only way to do it, here’s one man’s story of jumping on the NASCAR bandwagon. Your results may be different.

7:40 am-After hearing the alarm go off ten minutes earlier, I fall back asleep for those extremely important moments of ” I gotta get out of bed but screw it” sleep. But to get to the track on time, I get up and grab a quick shower.

8:30 am- On the road for the two hour trip to Indy, I try unsuccessfully on the car phone to reach the guy who has an extra ticket for me. There will only be about 250,000 people converging on a street in front of the track. I have no idea where we’re supposed to meet. Ah, it shouldn’t be that tough, right?

9:00 am- Stop at gas station for 12-pack of Mountain Dew. Don’t really feel like hitting a liqour store yet, although was known to meet the store owner as he was turning the key to open the locks back when I was in college. Sleep? Who needed sleep when you were 20 years old. I took tests better under sleep deprivation. GPA? Sealed forever. Had to be a 3.9 something, trust me.

9:15 am -Get passed by my first of many vans with NASCAR stickers on the windows/bumpers/kid’s foreheads. This one also has a No Jeff Gordon sticker on its back end.

9:30 am- Dial car phone again. Still no luck.

10:30 am-Arrive on north side of Indianapolis, stop for a six pack of beer and a turkey sandwich for the cooler. I believe the ability to bring a cooler into the track is a major reason racing is a fan favorite. Now if only other professional sports and movie theaters would do the same.

10:45 am- Run into first traffic jam, on 38th Street, more than four miles from the track. Not good.

10:55 am- Bail out of traffic jam, running parallel streets until I either run into a dead end or find my way. Only two cul-de-sacs on this trip. Not bad.

11:15 am- Decide to park at Lafayette Square Mall, on 38th, about 16 blocks from the track. It’s free, and since my soon-to-be ex-buddy is unreachable by phone or smoke signals or drumbeats or anything, I am at the mercy of scalpers. Better save money where I can.

11:18 am- Notice my arm already hurts from carrying six beers, three Dews, a bottled water and turkey sandwich in the cooler.

11:35 am- Since the race starts at 12:15, I think everything is going pretty well, especially when I ask the first scalper I see how much he wants for his ticket. He says “Hey, great seat for forty bucks.” I say, “Ah, too much” He says “Come on fella, how ’bout 30 bucks.” I just keep walking. Tickets less than face value about two miles from the track. That’s a good sign. As my general rule says, if tickets are plentiful, the closer you are to the venue and to the start time, the cheaper the price.

11:40 am- A guy carrying a cooler, walking in front of me is doing the same “OK, time to change hands” cooler carrying dance as I am. His name is Phil and he has a ticket, but not for me.

11:45 am- Getting close to the track now, I can see the Goodyear blimp in the sky, and scalpers everywhere. Still, I wait. Phil pops a top on a beer. “Only got 12,” he says. “In this heat, they’ll be gone quick.” For sure, Spicolli.

11:50 am- Crowd is immense. Beautiful sunny day. And I’m looking for one ticket. Word of advice here: when going to an event without a ticket, don’t take your family of four. Four tickets together from a scalper will drain the wallet. A single ticket is easy. Look for a fan selling, not a ticketbroker on his bike.

11:51 am- And there it is. A guy wearing a Mark Martin shirt, with his radio headset around his neck and a cooler in his hand. “Whatta ya’ have,” I ask. “One ticket, not very high up, but good seats. I’ve sat there before,” he answers. “How much,” I ask. “Twenty,” he replies. “Fifteen,” I counter. “Twenty,” he says. “Fifteen,” I say, starting to walk away. “OK, OK. Fifteen,” he gives in. I’m the man.

11:52 am- I look at the ticket I just bought. It’s a $55 dollar seat.

Noon- I’m in, eating a track hot dog with mustard. Life’s good, especially now that I get to set the cooler down.

12:10 pm- As I start down the row to my seat, I am the last person in the whole speedway to arrive, it seems. A big woman at the beginning of my row wants to know where I have been and that they have been waiting all morning for me. She’s either friendly or crazy. Or both.

12:15 pm- The race starts, and for the next three hours and fifteen minutes, I am the renter of an eight-inch strip of bleacher, with a big cooler between my legs to keep me company. Oh, yeah, plus I have a whole bunch of crazy, funny, friendly goofballs all around me. The guy who sold me the ticket is sitting next to me, and during the race eats two of the biggest ham and turkey sandwiches I have ever seen.

The 12-year old girl behind me has a straw hat in her lap that pokes me in the back for the final 100 laps. This after she drops mustard on my shirt while eating her lunch.

A guy and his brother sit on my left, with one of the men giving a detailed explanation of everything from which driver is best to why onions are good on hot dogs. Unfortunately, most of his information is wrong. Good thing I had purchased ear plugs for a buck just before I entered the track.

The woman to the left of them is teaching her daughter the nuances of needlepoint during the race. Her husband and his pal are too busy loading up on Budweiser to notice.

A woman in front of me stands up and cheers everytime Rusty Wallace’s car goes by us, meaning she stands up and lets out a whoop every fifty seconds.

Late in the race, some guy two rows behind me tries to bribe someone to throw a beer can onto the track because his favorite driver needs a caution flag to catch up. Suprisingly, no takers.

Still, most everyone is polite, not too inebriated, and watches the race. When Jeff Gordon ends the afternoon by winning, he is greeted by more cheers than boos. We all file down the bleacher steps, and try to avoid the ice and cold water shower that starts when all the people still up in the stands seem to simeltaneously empty their coolers above us.

On the way out of the track, we all walk in the direction of our cars. Some have parked across the street and have a short walk to a long wait in line to leave the lot. Others are parked in yards of homes near the track. Slowly, the crowd of thousands walking to their cars and motor homes thins out until there are only a few couples and scattered groups crossing 38th Street.

I see my car sitting in the lot, untowed. I am walking alone, feeling a bit like a hero. I’m not sure how much cash I have spent. My whole view of the race was as the cars came through turn four, nothing more. But it was real. Standing up in unison with the rest of the fans when something exciting happened. The smell of burned gasoline, hot rubber tires and track dogs. Real sights, real sounds and real smells.

And real tired.

 

 

Todd Snider – Welcome to the Greasy Tent Revival

Profile

Todd Snider – by Rob Nichols

If it wasn’t so true, Todd Snider would star in the movie.

The story of a kid who hitchhikes from the great northwest to Texas, is befriended by local music legends, learns to play guitar, and heads off on his own to conquer America.

But close the curtain and turn on the lights. There is no movie tonight.

Instead, Todd Snider will deliver the real thing. The lost art of living, sweating, screaming, testifying, American rock and roll resurrected.

Snider, with his band the Nervous Wrecks, brings his roadshow into Fort Wayne for a concert at Piere’s on Friday, June 26.

After some success in 1994 with “Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues”, a minor hit from his first album “Songs for the Daily Planet”, Todd and the band have toured nearly continuously since. His writing has continued to be some of the best and most honest music of any genre. The new album, “Viva Satellite”, rocks more than either of his two previous records, while still maintaining a social concieus worthy of a man who has a singer/songwriter background of Snider’s.

“Viva Satellite is decidedly more rock (than past efforts),” Snider told Rolling Stone this month.”But I don’t think it abandons our Jerry Jeff Walker/Joe Ely side, which is where we kind of come from.”

On stage iswhere the album, not to mention Todd, comes to life. Even from the first listen, album sounded like it would translate well live. It does.

But Todd Snider could probably make you dance to lyrics taken from a Betty Crocker Cookbook. And he would probably put a Chuck Berry riff to it to help it along, no doubt.

Fans who are seeing Todd for the first time when he hits town Fridaywon’t see a man and a band looking to tell you their troubles. As Todd points out in his live show, “we didn’t come hear tonight to stare at the floor and tell you how everything sucks.”

“If really feel we’ve gotten to the point where we’re the best band you’re going to see,” Todd said in an interview last week in the El PasoTimes, while the band was on a swing through the state that provided musical wings for the Beaverton, Oregon native. Snider moved to Austin with his brother Mike when Todd was 18. He lived there until heading to Atlanta in the late 1980’s before landing in Memphis.

“I think we are highly underrated'” he continued. “We are a good time rock and roll band, and you don’t see that kind of thing anymore.”

But the phrase is too simple for these guys. “Good time rock band” almost sounds like a description for a bunch of guys who go out and play Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd covers.

Which is what Todd and the Wrecks can do. They aren’t afraid to hit the stage blasting with “Long Haired Country Boy”, or “I’m Bad. I’m Nationwide”, or even the hidden track from the new CD, “I’m a Nervous Wreck”. If it rocks, it works.

The band just finished an month-long stint as the opener for blues kid Kenny Wayne Shepherd. From most accounts, the KWS fans were won over by the Snider’s enthusiasm and straight ahead Tom Petty-ish rock and roll that hit them for 50 minutes each night before their hero took the stage. An unusual bill, but one that undoubtedly won Snider some new fans, since he has yet to hit the jackpot in the music business by means of a big radio hit.

Besides “Talkin’ Seattle”, he earned some airplay with “Alright Guy” from the first album, and also with the second record’s (1996’s Step Right Up) first single “I Believe”, a bold statement of beliefs ala John Lennon chained to a CCR backbeat. The first single from the new album, a restrained screamer called “I Am Too” stalled after reaching the top 30 on the Adult Album charts.

Still a long road traveled for a kid who went to Texas searching for a little direction in his life.

After joining his brother Mike in Austin in 1984, Todd started playing solo gigs and open mike nights in the area, eventually hooking up with singer/songwriter Kent Finlay, who befriended Todd and let him move into his house. Todd stayed three years, learning to “make up songs”.

Snider soaked in the rich Texas musical culture, grabbing inspiration from gonzo-outlaw-party boy-genius songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker and folks like Joe Ely, Hal Ketchum, Billy Joe Shaver, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen. All the influences mixed together and added to Snider’s Skynyrd-Dylan-southern rock soul result in a sound that’s both original and stolen. And it is a good thing.

We can hear touches of all of those artists in Todd’s music. But his point of view, as his song points out, makes everything alright.

“He is a helluva writer,” Rock 104’s Doc West said. “That’s the thing that impresses me. I met him back when we brought him to town the very first time (1994), and he’s great on stage.

But there is a great photo of him on his first album, laboring over a pad of legal paper. He’s a writer, and he’s a very, very good one.”

His new record draws obvious comparisons to artists like Petty, with it’s accessible lyrics and ringing guitars.

“That never bothered me,” Snider said, of comparisons. “When people come up to me and say ‘you remind me of John Prine’ or ‘you remind me of Steve Earle’, I just say ‘great’.

“But I’ve been playing since I was 20. I’m 31 now. And (I’m being) compared to Tom Petty. I love Tom Petty, so if that’s my big tag for life, that doesn’t scare me,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s true,” Snider told Rolling Stone. “I thing we’re better than them.”

Reverence and attitude. Two of the biggest factors going for Snider. He had enough attitude to get kicked off his first record label, Capital Records, after not allowing the record executives force him into a studio with a band other than his own.

So Todd went back to Memphis and played a solo gig every Thursday at a club called The Daily Planet. He found Keith Sykes, musician who was in Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band. Sykes helped Snider get together with Buffett and in 1993, Todd signed with Margaritaville Records, a new label Jimmy had formed.

Like Buffett, Snider creates a concert party. With ace guitarist Will Kimbrough, longtime bass player Joe Marienchek (be ready, Todd will have you yell Joe’s name at least once during the evening) and former Afghan Whig drummer Paul Bucheghanni (pronounced Buk’-in-yanni), the band’s purpose also involves spreading the gospel of homegrown rock and roll.

Snider will fire up the crowd. He will make them sing. Everyone will dance.

“Every night, it seems we are getting better,” Snider said. “I never know what’s going to happen, but I know that we’re out there connecting souls.”

So turn off that old movie projector. Open the curtain. Turn it up. Todd’s in town.

 

 

Todd rants and rolls – by rn

I remember my first time.

It was Indianapolis, on a snowy January night.

Todd Snider and his band was at playing at the Patio. The line stretched around the corner. All I knew was some song called “Alright Guy” had reached through my car radio speakers and grabbed me by the shoulders and said “Uh, hey buddy. There’s something cool goin’ on here.”

And it was that first live show that hooked me. It wasn’t just the music, which was gut-busting good. It wasn’t the just the words, which were cool to sing with Todd. No, it was something Todd did three times. Five times.

Ten times. Hell, I had beer. I don’t know how many times, in the course of the show, he’d bring the band way down, and over top a juicy groove, Todd would rant.

About anything.

Beautiful part was he took the crowd with him during the story, building the suspense until the band exploded back into the song like a wrecking ball into a building.

It still happens. At every show.

Rant and roll. Just like the examples below, compiled from actual Todd Snider shows over the past couple of years, all voiced while the band played on.

A lot of people over the last year have listened to our music and some people have written about it. Some have called me a cynic.

A cynic? I am here set the record straight. I am not a cynic.

I believe in a better world. I believe the meek shall inherit. Until all of us stop counting on or blaming the rich white politicians to take care of us, and as soon as we turn around and make ourselves into a country instead of this big, fat beer commercial we have become, it will happen, sooner than later.

Memphis, Tennesee, 1996If you’ve ever seen us play before, you know we don’t like to leave until every single solitary person in the entire building is singing and has made unforgettable asses of themselves.

We make you the same promise we makes everybody. If you look straight ahead, and you let everything go and let yourself shake and let yourself do what you want to do, I promise when you wake up tomorrow and can’t quite remember what you did, please remember that you weren’t as big of a jackass as I was.

Bryan, Texas, 1997And then we get into a van and come to a town in Indiana where a bunch of people are wanting to connect in a spiritual sort of way.

Indianapolis, Indiana,1996

Performance – John Fogerty – House of Blues

John Fogerty
House of Blues-Chicago
May 28, 1997
By Rob Nichols

Where have you been, John Fogerty?
 
With eleven years between new albums, and only sporadic live concert appearances, Fogerty hasn’t been one of rock and roll’s most accessible performers.  Still, an appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opening concert in September 1995 proved to be one of the the best two of three performances of the night.   It also gave a hint that the man who bombarded radio with a dozens of great songs in 1969 and 1970 with Creedence Clearwater Revival might be up to something.
 
Celebrating his 52nd birthday at a packed House of Blues show in Chicago on May 28, Fogerty left no doubt as to his ability to get back on his rock and roll bike and take fans on a musical ride.
 
A standing-room only may have not known what to expect from the California singer.  Hadn’t this been the guy who refused for years to play his great tunes because of a long fight with his old label, Fantasy Records? 
 
Fogerty answered that question with an opening salvo of “Born on the Bayou”, “Green River”, and “Lodi”.  An audience request for “Who’ll Stop the Rain” was played immediately, after which Fogerty talked to the happily dazed audience.

“You may have heard I have a new album out”, Fogerty said of his new “Blue Moon Swamp”,  released a week earlier.
  
“Well, this one’s not on it,”  he laughed, before chooglin’ into “Suzie Q” and seguing directly into a ten-minute, blazing version of “I Put a Spell on You”, both the earliest of his CCR smashes. With a Rickenbacker strapped to his back, Fogerty blazed solos worthy of such guitar heroes as Neil Young or Eric Clapton.  Facing his amp for much of the song, Fogerty had his eyes closed and his mouth open. 
 
After slamming the tune to an end, Fogerty turned to the audience once again, and admitted he got lost.
 
“Sometimes, you go, you know, someplace else when you’re playing,” he joked. “But it’s a good place,”  he added.
 
What’s not lost is Fogerty’s one-of a kind voice.  It’s a beautiful foghorn.  He’s a shouter, with lots of emotion, and often sacrifices a word or two for a great scream.  His band, featuring two other guitar players, and including Kenny Aronoff, the best heartland rock and roll drummer alive, push John and wake up the songs that have been played a thousands of times on the radio.
 
The new record, which features Fogerty playing all the guitars, was also treated well, with songs that fit superbly into the show’s pacing.  In addition, a couple new tracks highlight his new-found dobro skills.  A pretty “Joy of My Life”, is one such song, and was introduced as the only real love song he’s ever written.  He dedicated it to his wife, who spent the entire concert dancing and clapping with friends in the balcony.
 
Fogerty brought his opening act, the gospel group the Fairfield Four, back for a pair of numbers.  The group, who opened the night with a 45-minute acappella set, backed Fogerty up during the new song “Hundred and Ten in the Shade” and a killer version of “Midnight Special”.
 
“Bad Moon Rising”, “Long as I Can See the Light”.  Hell, they did ’em all.  Nearly the entire CCR “Chronicle” album, seven off his new record and four from the 1985 release “Centerfield”. 
 
More than two hours after the show started, the man who put the swamp sound through his west coast heart and made AM radio listenable in the late 60’s and early 70’s reminded us why he should be considered one of the very best rock and roll artists of all-time.
 
And he didn’t tell us why.  Like a good teacher, he showed us.
 
The crowd sang along to “Down on the Corner”.  and rocked to “Fortunate Son”. 
 
An encore included the groove of “Proud Mary” giving way to the all-out flight of “Travelin’ Band”, and then Fogerty was gone into the night with a wave, a thank you and a big smile.
 
And it wasn’t clear who had the better night.  A crowd still chattering about the show as they left, or the man from El Cerrito, California who had stayed away a long, long time.
 
Welcome back, Mr. Fogerty.  You’ve been missed.