John Fogerty. Say the name and the impact will be different, depending on your musical tastes, your knowledge of (or interest in) pop culture politics and, of course, your age.
For most of us, Fogerty means Creedence Clearwater Revival, the band he fronted with brother Tom, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford for an amazingly short five years, ending in 1972. Those five years were pivotal not only to the band but to popular music in general.
Look at the songs the group is best known for “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Lodi” and “Travellin’ Band”; these California boys blended the rhythms and structures of country with the energy and soul of the blues and added a rock-hard edge.
Today, we don’t think twice when some new country hat twangs out an old rocker, but in 1967, man, this shook the foundations.
Alas, the partnership was doomed. Bad feelings drove Tom from the group in ’71, and blew it completely apart just one year later. This far from the swamp, fans of that sound made due with classic radio and tribute bands — they are legion — until Fogerty re-emerged in 1985 with “Centerfield,” and its pair of radio-friendly tunes, the title track and “The Old Man Down the Road.”
In spite of critical acclaim, award recognition and strong sales, only the most dedicated local fans have been able to keep track of his career since then, his freshest music hardly burning up the local charts.
Ongoing bitterness and frustrating legal wranglings kept Fogerty from performing the old tunes during the “Centerfield” days, and that made as much press at the time as the new material. Thankfully for two sold-out audiences at Mile One Centre this weekend, those days are long behind him.
Fogerty promoted the Canadian leg of his tour with promises of full CCR albums, along with his solo hits and “some surprises.” If the reaction of Friday’s crowd was any indication, it was a promise he kept.
Once they managed to get in, that is. Reportedly, the pyrotechnics were mis-shipped, and arrived barely in time for this first show of the tour. Let’s call it opening night jitters.
No matter. Promise of the Real opened with a 30-minute set so blistering any annoyance at the wait was quickly forgotten. The packed house gave the quartet (congas are a nice throwback touch) a deservedly rousing ovation.
A big-screen infomercial filled the time while the crew worked to set up the main event, a touch of history and, it has to be said, what played like pettiness. All the hits, almost no mention of Creedence. We love ya, John. You don’t have to try so hard and, at 67, it’s probably time to get over past insults, wot?
Once those pesky pyro displays burst and the man himself took the stage. The love was easily felt, especially by the eardrums.
He opened with the full “Bayou Country” album, capping the set off with “Proud Mary.” That got them on their feet and singing along.
Fogerty took advantage of the happy voices many times through the night. Through “Midnight Special,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” and most effectively, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” he encouraged the 5,000-strong choir, and cheered their efforts each time.
Not that he needed the help. Fogerty’s voice was strong and dead on every note, even those trademark whoops and glass-rattling highs.
The excellent band (after “Ramble Tamble,” Fogerty called drummer Kenny Aronoff the best rock and roll drummer in the world. At that point he would have received little argument) kept up the break-neck pace, enriching the sound and filling the stadium with resonating background vocals. During “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” you would have sworn those four white boys were a deep-south gospel chorus.
For two hours, Fogerty ran the stage, wailed the hits and schooled every guitar player in the house, wringing the neck of a good selection of the 25 instruments he is said to carry on tour. And when it was all said and done, the three-song encore punctuated by dry ice, fire balls and confetti cannon shots, left everyone wanting more, but too spent to make the demand.
At this writing there is another sold-out show on Saturday. One can only hope the lucky folk who managed to get tickets for that one were ready for one of the best concerts they will see this year.
Maybe any year.
Ken Simmons is The Telegram's Features/New Media editor