The typical John Fogerty concert would not include “Ooby Dooby” and “Ramble Tamble,” but Tuesday night was special.
For his first tour in our vicinity in 15 years, he was rolling out Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Cosmo’s Factory,” the hit-filled 1970 album so great, so classic, it played in the Dude’s car in “The Big Lebowski.”
The scene was the Cal U Convocation Center, which feels like a miniature version of the Petersen Events Center and was the site of a Dylan concert in the spring. Dylan is clearly a much bigger draw among college students, who bring a needed youthful energy to these affairs.
This show was so sparsely attended it felt uncomfortably like a scene from a mockumentary about a fading rocker, which is too bad because the 68-year-old Mr. Fogerty has a catalog that’s timeless, and he still unleashes it with a fury that defies his age.
In a move that surely startled his older fans, he arrived with a burst of pyro, something Dylan never would have done, on a flashy, tricked-out stage with a center screen. Flashpots and flannel is a strange combination, and of all the times I’ve seen Mr. Fogerty, I don’t recall a fog machine, but I’ve got to admit it did add some atmosphere to “Run Through the Jungle” and other songs.
He got right to work with “Travelin’ Band,” which, you CCR fans may recall, is actually the third song on “Cosmo’s Factory” (in rotating nights with “Bayou Country”). He wasn’t going to bother doing the album in order, which at least keeps us guessing in these album-centric shows.
Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me” and Arthur Crudup’s “My Baby Left Me,” better known as an Elvis song, gave the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer a chance to talk about his roots trying to play like the pioneers on the radio. It could have been the deeper ethnomusicology portion of the show for the Cal U student body.
There also was a good Woodstock lesson that began with the somewhat awkward segue of “seeing a big crowd like this reminds me ….” Anyway, he explained that he signed on to the festival with the promise that CCR would play a 9:30 Saturday night slot. What he didn’t count on was playing after the Grateful Dead, who, true to form, started late and went just a bit long. He got on stage at 2:30 a.m. Sunday playing for “people who looked just like me — except they’re naked and they’re asleep.”
He went home from Woodstock and wrote “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” which he offered Tuesday night with a beach-ball drop, another on the list of modern-day concert cliches.
His five-piece band — which included drum powerhouse Kenny Aronoff — was rock solid and got to stretch out multiple times, especially on his cover of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” Mr. Fogerty himself was dead-on on all the classic riffs and his howling voice hasn’t aged a day in 40 years.
“Cosmo” took up the first hour, finishing with a stirring rendition of “Long As I Can See the Light,” and from there it was a mixed bag of solo and CCR songs starting with “Centerfield,” played on his baseball bat guitar. “Well, better luck next year,” he said, needing no further explanation.
“Green River” was absolute killer, with that jagged riff and a solo hotter than Slayer’s pyro. Same goes for a steamy “Born on the Bayou,” with more fog, and “Suzie Q,” the jam that put CCR on the map 45 years ago. “Mystic Highway,” a rare new song, sounded enough like an old song to fit the set.
Mostly, it was one American treasure after another (well, maybe not “Rock and Roll Girls”) for 2 1⁄2 hours, building to an amped-up finale of “Fortunate Son” and encores of “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary.” With, yes, confetti.
“Keep on Chooglin,” whatever that means, is a pretty apt description of what the man is doing and what he’s always done. You could rank this Cal U show right up there with the most recent Neil Young gig or any other from legends from his generation. All it needed was a big crowd going crazy.
Is it possible that people just don’t know that John Fogerty is Creedence Clearwater Revival?
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.
First Published November 5, 2013 11:19 PM