Fogerty returns to roots – with a vengeance

By Kevin Gibson

When John Fogerty's roadies dragged the floor amp onstage and Fogerty announced that it was one he used at Woodstock, the packed house at the Palace July 10 knew it wasn't seeing just another concert.

Whether the amplifier was symbolic of his return – after about a 20-year boycott – to playing Creedence Clearwater Revival songs onstage didn't really matter at this point. All that mattered was that he was officially kicking off his "Blue Moon Swamp" tour in Louisville, and he'd just finished his opening four tunes, "Born on the Bayou," "Green River," "Lodi" and "Looking Out My Back Door," without taking a breath.

Wow.

By then, he could have dragged a dead goat onstage and the audience wouldn't have noticed. All anyone cared about was the crisp sound and the passion with which Fogerty approached his craft. Not that the younger set would know the difference, but it might as well have been 1967 all over again.

He used the Woodstock amp on "Susie Q." and "I Put a Spell On You" before returning to the more modern equipment and effortlessly gliding into "Jelly Roll" and "Southern Streamline" from his new album, backdropped by a striking swamp set that changed from night to day and back again throughout the show.

All the stories about Fogerty's search for his musical roots must be true. For those who haven't heard, during his roughly 10-year hiatus he got married, started a family and decided to seek out the places where his musical influences lived and breathed.

During those trips into the South, Fogerty realized, while standing over the grave of Robert Johnson, that when he's gone, people will only remember who wrote the music, not the "backstabbing" record company exec who owned the rights to it.

It was at that point that he decided it was time to not only return to music but to dust off the classics he had written nearly 30 years before.

All the better for us, for it seemed Fogerty made up for 20 years of CCR boycott in one evening. And when he wasn't searing one of the many guitars he used during the show on "Midnight Special" or melting the audience with a stirring rendition of "Who'll Stop the Rain," he was thanking everyone there for giving him the opportunity of letting him play.

All that and humility to boot.

Highlights of the evening came during "Midnight Special" and "110 in the Shade" (from the new album) as the Fairfield Four joined him onstage to provide backing vocals for a short cooling-off period, during which Fogerty showed off his skills on the dobro. Then he unveiled the classic Louisville Slugger-built guitar he used to play "Centerfield."

"This guitar has come home," he announced.

After four straight tunes from "Blue Moon Swamp," Fogerty finished the two-hour set with "Heard it Through the Grapevine," "Bad Moon Rising" and "Fortunate Son" before encoring with "Proud Mary" and "Traveling Band."

While his supporting cast was obviously doing its best to just provide a backbeat and stay out of Fogerty's way, Kenny Aranoff's drumming was nothing less than electrifying. His enthusiasm might have been eclipsed only by Fogerty's – or the audience's.

Nashville's the Fairfield Four, all five of them, opened the show with a short gospel acoustic set featuring sweet, thick harmonies. Clad in matching overalls, they billed themselves "the oldest teen-age group in America" and turned in stirring versions of gospel standards, showing why Fogerty chose them for backup vocal duties on his new album.