Friday, August 26, 2016

Fortunate Son: With Offspring Alongside, John Fogerty Shows He's Still Quite Ready to Play, Today -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

John Fogerty
Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL
August 25, 2016

Just a few minutes past the ticketed time of 8:00pm, John Fogerty walked onto the Ravinia stage with his band, looking much like he's always looked and--sounding much like he's always sounded--summarily ripped through "Travelin' Band," "Green River," "Born on the Bayou," "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Looking Out My Back Door. "

These tunes all harken back to Fogerty's brilliant run fronting Creedence Clearwater Revival from 1968-72, and along with a handful of solo tunes, CCR classics dominated the 21-song set over 105 minutes.

There were no background videos, no hyperkinetic lighting displays, no opening act, no backup singers.

It was a rather straightforward affair, not much unlike three previous Fogerty shows I attended--most recently in 2014--or a concert DVD I own.

But other than, for me, some sense of "Deja Vu (All Over Again)"--a song of his not played Thursday--none of this uniformity was a bad thing.

Over an astonishing 4 years with Creedence, Fogerty created one of the most hallowed catalogs in rock history, and it's much to his credit that he still sings and plays the old songs as good as ever.

And even through binoculars from a pavilion seat--for just $35 on StubHub--Fogerty at 71 doesn't look markably different than he did in 1985 when I first came to know him via the Centerfield solo album (after many years of lying low).

Though not nearly as prolific on his own as he was with CCR, 2013's "Mystic Highway" demonstrated he can still write a great tune, while "Joy of My Life" was a nice love song for his wife that I hadn't heard before.

I wouldn't have minded a few more solo cuts--"Deja Vu," "Rock and Roll Girls," "Almost Saturday Night"--and even the Creedence cavalcade could benefit from some variance, given the amazing depth.

I missed "Up Around the Bend" and would've relished "Hey Tonight," while "Someday Never Comes" is strangely one that Fogerty has almost never performed on his own.

Though often played, he also skipped "Susie Q" in his first-ever concert at Ravinia.

But along with the aforementioned, "Midnight Special," "Have You Ever Seen the Rain," "Down on the Corner," "Fortunate Son," "Bad Moon Rising" and  "Proud Mary" were absolute joys, as well as solo hits "Centerfield"--complete with a baseball bat-shaped guitar--and "The Old Man Down the Road." (See the full setlist here.)

While it well may sound like this was a concert comprised of many superlative old songs, you--and even I--might well imagine that it provided standard issue enjoyment, great for the North Shore set who hadn't seen Fogerty in their midst before, but nothing that demanded my attendance yet again.

But though Fogerty is decidedly old-school, he comes across as a genial, genuine guy who simply loves to perform, which always abets the delight of seeing him.

Though not extremely verbose onstage, beyond being gracious he tells stories that remind of his scintillating history, including one about showing up at Woodstock for a 9:00pm CCR slot and not playing until 2:30am, following a particularly trippy Grateful Dead set.

He also surrounds himself with outstanding musicians, including one of my all-time favorite drummers, Kenny Aronoff, a particularly dynamic keyboard/organ/accordion player named Bob Malone and as one of two side guitarists, his own son Shane Fogerty.

All of the players were given opportunities to shine in the spotlight with extended solo turns, but it was particularly cool to see John Fogerty and his fortunate son raging side-by-side on a reworked version of "Lodi" and, appropriately, "The Old Man Down the Road."

As in 2014, Fogerty astonished me with unassuming guitar prowess to match the magnificence of his songwriting, and though not one of his lyrical masterworks, "Keep On Chooglin'" was one of the night's highlights due to a feverish multi-instrumental workout.

It was also great to hear a lesser-known CCR gem, "Ramble Tamble."

While I can't say that younger generations were much represented in Ravinia's crowd, the high profile presence of one of Fogerty's children onstage amid other stellar sidemen helped make the whole affair feel more like a revival than merely a sentimental jukebox.

Like a proud papa, John even made a point of telling the full pavilion--and a good-sized lawn crowd despite no video screen--that Shane had graduated from USC, with a 4.0 grade point average.

And augmented by a couple chestnuts Fogerty didn't write--"I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "New Orleans"--the concert made for a pretty convincing master class in rock 'n roll history.

I may have heard it all before, but when the music is this good--and played with such obvious and unmitigated ardor--it never gets old.

1 comment:

Ken said...

John Fogerty is one of the truly underrated guitarists of his generation. I tend to see him as America's version of Eric Clapton.