It's been a big year for John Fogerty. His acclaimed new album, Wrote a Song for Everyone, was released on his 68th birthday, an album that celebrates his Creedence Clearwater Revival and solo songs through re-recordings with heavy hitters like Foo Fighters, Bob Seger and more.
To celebrate its release, he played a birthday concert in Los Angeles that was aired live on AXS TV. Earlier in the year, he was part of the Sound City Players all-star band put together to celebrate Dave Grohl's documentary Sound City. And now, Fogerty is on a month-long solo U.S. tour, which made an early stop at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles on Friday night.
In many ways, this concert was a celebration of another big year for Fogerty, the year 1969 in which CCR was named Best American Band by Rolling Stone magazine, performed at Woodstock (more on that later) and released three classic albums, the first of which, Bayou Country, was played in its entirety at the concert. This album features well-loved songs like "Born on the Bayou" and "Proud Mary," plus cool album cuts like "Bootleg."
Other songs of '69 on the program included the classics "Lodi," with a harder rocking edge compared with the CCR version; "Bad Moon Rising"; "Down on the Corner," which brought people to their feet for the rest of the night; "Fortunate Son" with onstage puffs of fire; and "Green River."
In his introduction to the latter, Fogerty said, "This is a song I wrote about a pretty special place I used to go when I was an itty bitty kid. I think we've all had someplace like that, where they had a tire hanging from a tree, and you catch polliwogs and scare girls with frogs and stuff like that. This stuff really happened to me. It was up near Winters, Calif., a place I call the Green River."
I enjoyed Fogerty's song introductions like this almost as much as the music. Regarding Woodstock, Fogerty told that CCR had been scheduled to go on at the prime 9:30 p.m. slot on Saturday night, but they followed The Grateful Dead whose long set and equipment trouble delayed things greatly, meaning that they actually started at 2:30 a.m.
Fogerty joked that he "saw a lot of people just like me, but they were naked and they were asleep." Fogerty was not happy with the band's performance, so they weren't on the movie or soundtrack, but the experience — "not one in half a million people had an umbrella, and it rained for three days" — did inspire the hit song "Who'll Stop the Rain."
Fogerty's introduction to "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" was particularly touching. He said, "This next song started out as kind of a sad song. I wrote this about the breakup of a rather world-famous rock-and-roll band," namely Creedence Clearwater Revival, "but these days this song is very happy to me because it reminds me of my little girl Kelsy, who just turned 12. ... Kelsy's a rainbow in my life, and this song has a rainbow in it."
Kelsy's mom, Fogerty's wife, Julie, had earlier made a brief appearance when Fogerty dragged her onstage after the love song "Blue Moon Nights."
In addition to other CCR classics like the sloppy but energetic "Travelin' Band," Fogerty played key songs from his solo career, including "Old Man Down the Road" in which his and Julie's son Shane played a guitar solo for his "old man"; "Almost Saturday Night"; "Rock and Roll Girls"; and "Centerfield," which had plumes of smoke shooting from the stage. He also did the two new songs, "Mystic Highway" and "Train of Fools," from the Wrote a Song for Everyone album.
When you put it all together, it was a 2½-hour show with great songs, great singing and great guitar — not too flashy and always fitting the song — from Fogerty. Personally, I found the overall sound to be a bit too loud, and the drums and bass to be a bit too powerful. But I can live with that. Oh, and it's a great venue also, reminding me of a smaller version of the Santa Barbara Bowl.
It was definitely worth the drive up from Santa Barbara to see Fogerty during one of his biggest years since the heyday of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Born on the Bayou
Good Golly Miss Molly
Keep On Chooglin'
Who'll Stop the Rain
Lookin' Out My Back Door
Train of Fools
Hot Rod Heart
Blue Moon Nights
Almost Saturday Night
Long As I Can See the Light
Nobody's Here Anymore
Rock and Roll Girls
Down on the Corner
Up Around the Bend
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
Oh, Pretty Woman
The Old Man Down the Road
Bad Moon Rising
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.