What: John Fogerty
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St.
Rating: Five (out of five)
Rock ’n’ roll fans were given a first-rate lesson in shredding Wednesday night, by one of the unheralded greats of the guitar.
It wasn’t what everyone assembled at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre would have expected, but what they received was a lively two-hour set from John Fogerty, the former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman, that bordered on the explosive.
Fogerty, 71, is known primarily as an incomparable songwriter, and one of the best in history at that. But the majority who came to see him perform bought a ticket to see Old Reliable, the aw-shucks version of John Fogerty.
Instead, they were face to face with a new, improved model who scratched and clawed his way through the night, proving he still has plenty of gas in the tank.
There were singalongs — large amounts, in fact. But a three-song blowout that kicked off his show before 4,511 fans at the Blanshard Street arena could only be described as a curveball.
He played Travelin’ Band, Green River, and Born on the Bayou off the top and with tenacity, chasing after guitar solos like they stole his milk money. A septuagenarian with this many springs in his step? On most nights, an unheard-of proposition.
If fans weren’t already aware, Fogerty showed them on Wednesday why guitar fans count him among the legends of his generation.
Perfect tone and natural feel were only two weapons in his arsenal on this night: When he delivered a twangy, tangy solo on Lookin’ Out My Backdoor, he did so with shades of Telecaster titans Steve Cropper and Albert Collins. And his pacing on I Heard It Through the Grapevine was steady but stripped of any pretence. That means he was good — real good.
Fogerty was joined by an astonishing group of support musicians, including piano player Bob Malone and drum icon Kenny Aronoff. Malone was lights-out in spots, and Aronoff showed the same timekeeping skills that earned him gigs with everyone from Paul McCartney to Bob Dylan. Both were standouts among giants.
This night was about Fogerty, and he did not disappoint. He jacked up Lodi — one of the best slow-burners in history — and turned it inside out, with help from his guitar-playing son, Shane, who was repeatedly impressive. That was one of many highlights during this surprisingly varied set by Fogerty, whose concerts in Victoria over the years have stuck mostly to a similar cadre of CCR songs.
The staples of his catalogue — Fortunate Son, Born on the Bayou, and Bad Moon Rising — were presented in fine form. But the astute observer would have found beauty in the B-sides.
Keep on Chooglin’ was beastly, accented by a harmonica solo from Fogerty that scorched the stage. And the rarity that is Southern Streamline — one of three songs he played from his 1997 solo comeback, Blue Moon Swamp — bordered on great.
He was vulnerable in spots, from the spotty nature of his first verse on the otherwise amazing Ramble Tamble to the anxious rate of speed during Travelin’ Band. And it’s about time to retire the story about the “colourful folks” at Woodstock and the events that inspired Who’ll Stop the Rain.
But those setbacks simply made him human on this night, and added to the realness of his set; anyone who has seen Fogerty over the years knows his concerts could use a little less formality.
And while he started slowly Wednesday, which could have been problematic, he was cooking by the midpoint of his set, his rate of hits-per-minute well above the legal limit.
It’s no wonder Fogerty is rarely seen without a flannel shirt, because he puts in a honest day’s work whenever he performs. He certainly did that on Wednesday, earning a roomful of respect in the process.
1. Travelin' Band
2. Green River
3. Born on the Bayou
4. Sweet Hitch-Hiker
5. Who'll Stop the Rain
6. Lookin' Out My Back Door
7. Hot Rod Heart
8. Born on the Bayou
9. Ramble Tamble
10. Midnight Special
11. Joy of My Life
12. Southern Streamline
13. I Heard It Through the Grapevine
15. New Orleans
16. Keep On Chooglin'
17. Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
18. Down On the Corner
20. The Old Man Down the Road
21. Fortunate Son
22. Bad Moon Rising
23. Proud Mary