Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre
When: Saturday night
Rating: 4 (out of five)
John Fogerty roared into Victoria last night - his third concert here in recent years and the last stop on his Canadian tour.
Dressed in his iconic blue plaid shirt, he immediately launched into Hey Tonight. The crowd cheered. Were they on his side? Yes, indeedy.
Announcing he was going to showcase tunes from his 1969 album, Bayou Country, the youthful-looking rocker dished up a Hammond-organ fueled take on Born on the Bayou. Singing about a mythic South, Fogerty never got swampier and nastier than he did with this song. Then, barely taking a breath, it was onto a sprightly version of Bootleg.
And the hits just kept on acomin'.
His voice was strong, albeit somewhat thinner and more trebly than the soul roar that defined his late '60s/early '70s recordings. Backed by a crack band, his music sounded roadhoned - perhaps a touch slick, but impressive overall.
Fogerty has worked hard on his guitar playing over the years. It showed, for instance, on his smooth solos (delivered on a goldtop Les Paul) during Little Richard's Good Golly Miss Molly.
Other notable moments during Saturday night's cavalcade of hits: the fret-board tapping intro to Keep on Chooglin' (a tune punctuated by pyro blasts), a grinding Green River, a crowdpleasing Susie Q (here Fogerty displayed more formidably fluid guitar licks), the cute accordion intro to Lookin' Out My Back Door, the clap-along Midnight Special (which got the crowd on its feet), a soulful Long as I Can See the Light, the rhythmic Rhodes piano solo on I Heard It Through the Grapevine and iconic guitar riffing in Up Around the Bend, with Fogerty running around the stage like a teenager.
Leading into Who'll Stop the Rain, Fogerty reprised his ofttold tale about following a tardy Grateful Dead at Woodstock and playing an early morning set for what seemed like a single lighterwaving fan. This song was a highlight of the night, accompanied by nostalgic video images of the famous concert.
Much of the show was delivered with racing-car velocity, as though this rock legend's greatest fear is that the audience might become bored. He needn't have worried.
Now 67, Fogerty has emerged, despite legal and personal battles, as a genuine survivor. And it's not just relentless drive and ambition that's kept him going.
Like the blues legends he admires, Fogerty realizes the importance of essentials: a gritty voice, uncluttered guitar lines and songs that reduce rock to its bare bones. Some critics dismissed him as a meat-and-potatoes heartland rocker, but he's truly a rock and roll alchemist who burned - and continues to burn - with the keening intensity of a welding torch. We witnessed this last night with his absolutely ferocious version of Down the Road I Come, a speedfreak interpretation with Fogerty howling out the lyrics like a demon.
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