ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 28, 1997
Most of the folks attending John Fogerty’s first Vancouver concert in 12 years last Friday (August 22) must have been aware that he had returned to playing some of his old Creedence Clearwater Revival hits, but nobody knew for sure how enthusiastically the 51-year-old rocker would embrace his CCR legacy on this particular night. About 20 minutes into the show, it was obvious that Fogerty had gotten over his bitterness about losing the rights to his deathless Creedence tunes, because he kicked things off with no fewer than six of them.
Now I know the full meaning of the mystical phrase yee-haw!
“Born on the Bayou” was first out of the gate, a particularly apt title considering the staging. A large painted backdrop of a backwoods swamp—complete with gators, snakes, and two-foot bugs—was bordered by skeletal sheet-metal fittings and numerous wooden pylons, with Kenny Aronoff’s drum kit set in the middle of a realistic-looking “wharf” that ran the length of the stage. Fogerty kept the spirit of ’69 alive with “Green River” and “Lodi”, then moved up a year with his rootsy tribute to laying back, “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”. For “Suzie Q” he rolled out the amplifier he used to record that hit in ’68, employing a red Rickenbacker to wrench some feedback out before seguing into “I Put a Spell on You”, which showcased his intense vocals and quashed the myth that you can’t scream real good after 50.
For his first break from the Creedence material, Fogerty chose “Bring It Down to Jelly Roll”, one of the finer tracks on his new solo CD, Blue Moon Swamp, which saw him knocking off some tasty lap-steel guitar licks. About halfway through the set—as the orange glow of daylight faded from the backdrop and a grinning blue moon appeared over the “swamp”—Fogerty took a seat and picked up a Dobro for his “favourite song of all time”, a romantic paean to his wife called “Joy of My Life”.
The nearly sell-out crowd seemed to enjoy Fogerty’s new material, but it was obvious from the shouted requests that his oldies were most appreciated. My own repeated hollers for “Up Around the Bend” went unanswered, but Fogerty was smart enough to end his set with “Fortunate Son”, the rollicking gem that best typifies his rebellious and unbreakable rock spirit. His encore of “Proud Mary” was too much for one female fan, who scrambled onstage to bounce around barefoot before being escorted back to the section staked out by rowdies at stage left.
Opening act the Bottle Rockets were a late addition to the bill, and a fair number of Fogerty fans weren’t about to forsake the lubricating qualities of the Orpheum’s lobby to give them a listen. More’s the pity, because this grubby-looking quartet from Festus, Missouri, delivered a set of southern-tinged biker rock that most any CCR fanatic would have favoured. After the lean and gritty set—which included “Radar Gun”, a raging boogie that had some local airplay a couple years back—singer-guitarist Brian Henneman thanked Fogerty for the tour spot, and acknowledged him as a “real hero”. Considering how Fogerty has managed to persevere through the legal nightmares and artistic hurdles of his fabled career, I’d have to agree. But just being able to sing with so much heart and soul makes Fogerty a superman to me.