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.