Hard Rock Live, Hollywood
Thursday, April 22, 2010
When John Fogerty first initiated his roots rock ethos with Creedence Clearwater Revival some 42 years ago, the musical term Americana had yet to be used to describe the concept of meshing country music with rock 'n' roll. Even after he broke with the band and released his first solo album under the nom de plume the Blue Ridge Rangers, it was still too early for him to see he had helped create a sound that would be appropriated under the banner of roots rock, alt-country, and, yes, Americana. Along with Dylan, the Band and the latter day Byrds, Fogerty was instrumental in casting a sepia tint on a distinctly American musical form, making it both timeless and indelible in the process.
Fitting then that Thursday night at the Hard Rock, Fogerty and his solid six-piece band surveyed an entire genre in the space of two hours and more than two dozen songs.
"Y'all remind me of Woodstock," Fogerty joked early on. "But you're
better looking and smarter too." Still, those who first caught Fogerty
with Creedence at that Bethel New York festival would likely have found
little difference between the rustic rocker of four decades back and the
ambling journeyman troubadour of today. For one thing, Fogerty looks
like he's hardly aged a day. Clad in his customary western style shirt
and with a crop of hair that shows no evidence of either thinning or
tinting towards gray, at age 64 he's as wiry as ever, stalking the
stage, grinning continuously, making the occasional rocker pose and
exhibiting an unabashed enthusiasm. His stage presence resembles that of
a man still swept up in the initial surge of success, spinning off his
tunes with abandon as if surrounded by a circle of friends.
The night was mostly defined by revisiting a generous portion of the
Creedence catalogue. A rapid-fire barrage of six CCR songs in the set's
opening onslaught -- "Hey Tonight," "Green River," "Looking Out My Back
Door," Lodi," Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Wrote a Song For Everyone" all
made for an impressive first punch, ably followed by "Suzie Q," a song
Creedence appropriated as its own early on.
The show was further embellished by a number of equally relevant covers -- "Midnight Special," "My Baby Left Me," and "The Night Time is the Right
Time," among them. In fact, some of the remakes were particularly
significant. "Garden Party," the only entry from his new The Blue Ridge
Rangers Rides Again album (a sequel to that first Blue Ridge Rangers
album released 30 years ago), seemed a payback to Ricky Nelson, who
appropriated Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night" with great results. So
too, his take on Roy Orbison's "Oh Pretty Woman" arose from a duet spun
with Bruce Springsteen at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame's 25th
anniversary extravaganza, after which Springsteen allegedly told Fogerty
he ought to continue to feature it in his repertoire.
Not that Fogerty needs to inflate his catalogue; in fact, hearing songs such as "Fortunate Son," "Down on the Corner" and "Bad Moon Rising" replayed with such zest and enthusiasm, it was clear that Fogerty's canon is indeed an essential part of our American, and the world's, rock n' roll psyche.
He plays his songs like the heartland anthems they are, so by the time he comes to his final song selection -- among them, the triumphant "Centerfield" (which found him gleefully wielding a baseball bat- shaped guitar) and the two-track encore, "Good Golly Miss Molly" and the obligatory "Proud Mary" -- the concert had become not so much a matter of getting re-acquainted but more a real reunion in which the soundtrack that created the audience's common bond was shared and celebrated.
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As momentous as this communal experience might seem -- and indeed, these songs stirred some sentiment and resonated as well -- there was nothing particularly gratuitous about the way the band parceled them out. Fogerty's lead guitar work was as facile and fluid as ever, and the band executed their parts with diligence, particularly drummer Kenny Aronoff, who quite simply, is one of the best in the biz. Yet the music was played without flash or bluster, eschewing glitz and gimmickry in favor of a common, just-plain-folks presentation. It was, pure and simple, an inspirational example of a heartland hero at work, and a rousing example of how the redemptive power of rock 'n' roll can serve as salve for the spirit.
Personal bias: The only other song I would have liked to have heard was "Almost Saturday Night," although it was part of the music collage before the band came on.
Random detail: While most of the members of the band were likely young enough to be his offspring, Fogerty and the musicians seemed on an equal plateau.
By the way: Concerts that reflect a legacy like this don't come around very often.