Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Concert Review; John Fogerty; Friday July 20/07, Molson Ampitheatre, Toronto

John Fogerty has probably visited Toronto more often in the last 10 years than he did in the 25-odd years since Creedence Clearwater Revival folded. The leader of that legendary band wrote and recorded almost as many hits as the Rolling Stones, and all within a few frantic years starting with the band’s 1968 self-titled debut. For almost two decades, he refused to perform C.C.R. songs in public, until Bob Dylan met John Fogerty, and joked that the world might only remember “Proud Mary” as an Ike & Tina Turner song. Since that legendary club meeting and live jam in 1987, John Fogerty, the writer and voice of C.C.R. has played many of his hits in concert. The man can still sing very well, and his band is as good as Creedence ever was. Like C.C.R, they still rarely jam or improvise on stage, preferring to play the songs straight. Fogerty’s band works as a tight, well rehearsed live juke box, and the hits pour out nightly.

John Fogerty kicked off with “Travellin’ Band”, postponing his standard opener, “Born On The Bayou” until later on. He played the odd vintage surprise, such as “Ramble Tamble” from the first Creedence record, but Fogerty mostly stuck to a rather conservative set list. There were a few “Centerfield” cuts, along with the well received “Déjà vu (All Over Again)” from 2004, during which the video screen displayed the coffins of American soldiers returning from Iraq.

That was followed by “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, one of the few songs that featured some stretching out among band members, although even this rendition virtually matched the 1969 extended Creedence version. The guitar playing was split between John and Billy Burnette, while drummer Kenny Aronoff held the dueling guitars together.

John introduced the next song, a new one from his forthcoming release, and dedicated it to his daughter. The new song “Don’t You Wish It Was True?” is classic Fogerty- irresistibly catchy and easy to remember. It was played on the P.A. system at the end of the night for good measure.

From here, the band launched into the old C.C.R. finale “Keep On Chooglin’”. This was a surprisingly short version too, but it did give the band one more chance to show off just a little bit. Tonight’s version was surprisingly short, but the band was perhaps wary of the 11 p.m. curfew in effect at the Ampitheatre.

The cowbell in the follow-up could only have been the start of “Down On The Corner”. These were followed by a couple of songs from the 1986 record “Centerfield”- the title track, “Rock and Roll Girls”, and “The Old Man Down the Road”.

On the 2004 “Vote For Change” tour, “Fortunate Son” was practically dedicated to George W. Bush. That political slant was replaced tonight by a lot of “God Bless You’s” between songs, but it was still a treat to hear John sing that particular song. In fact, it sounded more energetic than the brief finale of “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary”. John Fogerty’s current touring band naturally consists of well seasoned players, and one wonders if John is needlessly resisting any urge to change some of the live arrangements of the songs they perform. Surely he has heard the Ohio Players’ deep, slow, thick-as-molasses funky version of “Proud Mary” or Gene Harris’ gospelized version of “Green River”? Still, Fogerty’s voice and playing have survived the last few decades largely intact, and that alone is no small feat.

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