Is it me, or is the music your parents listened to when you were growing up really polarizing? I either love it or I hate it! Thankfully, when it comes to the tunes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, my dad and I never disagree. In fact, the first time he showed me the photo of lead singer John Fogerty and the crowd from inside his vinyl copy of CCR’s Pendulum album, it took me less than thirty seconds to find his face near the front of the crowd. Naturally, when I heard that Fogerty was playing all his best at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, I could think of no one I’d enjoy the evening with more than my dad. And tonight, that’s exactly what we did.
The set began with a long video of Fogerty’s history, both as a man and a musician. Eventually he appeared in his trademark flannel shirt, beginning with “Travelin’ Band” and “Lookin’ out My Back Door.” Fogerty thanked the crowd for joining him (outdoors) on a “brisk fall night” as he began the next song, “Ooby Dooby,” followed by “Night Time in the Right Time.” (He mentioned that he’d be playing the album Cosmo’s Factory in its entirety.) “How about that amazing drummer back there? He’s the best rock and roll drummer in the whole world!”
“Run Through the Jungle” came next, including Fogerty proving he’s still a boss on the harmonica. During “Up Around the Bend,” the stage screens showed a video of bikers across the country and on the road. “Growing up,” Fogerty explained between songs, “I was heavily influenced by the blues.” He stopped to give a nod to someone holding a sign that said “EC Gaucho,” which was an El Cerrito thing (his hometown). He went on to describe how he would walk to school as a kid and try to remember the songs of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Bo Diddley, among others. They had something, he said, that was unavailable to a suburban kid trying to “capture their mojo, their mystique.” He would eventually realize that it was because they “came from mysterious places like Mississippi,” and that he would “never capture what they had,” but he had a lot of fun trying. Diddley-penned tune “Before You Accuse Me” was followed by “My Baby Left Me,” and then Fogerty began to speak again. The crowd, he said, “remind me of a situation I was in… Woodstock in 1969. But you guys are better looking!” He went on to say that during Woodstock, it had rained for three days, but that no one had brought an umbrella. Naturally, they did “what all smart people do: they took off their clothes.” When the invitation to play the festival had come, Fogerty had been excited, feeling that it was CCR’s chance to really gain some exposure. He was excited to hear they’d been scheduled to play at 9pm on Saturday night. Unfortunately, what they’d failed to tell him was that Creedence would have to follow the Grateful Dead. The Dead didn’t actually play until midnight, and then after forty-five minutes, their equipment broke. An hour later, Fogerty explained, they had fixed it and then played for another hour. At 2:30am, Creedence made its big debut for a naked, sleeping crowd. “We’re trying to rock out for you!” Out in the crowd, a lighter flickered and a voice shouted, “don’t worry, John, we’re with ya!”
“I played the rest of the concert for that guy,” John admitted, chagrined. The next song began with actual Woodstock footage playing on the screen, and was “Who’ll Stop the Rain.”
Next came “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” featuring great mini solos from the band, which consisted of a key player, the aforementioned great drummer, and a total of four guitars. After “Long As I Can See the Light” came the wonderful “Centerfield” featuring a baseball-themed video montage (Fogerty is admittedly a die-hard Oakland A’s fan). Fogerty shared more childhood memories, explaining that when he was really young, his parents used to take him to a place in Northern California near Winters called Putah Creek, which eventually became Berryessa. He recalls his dad driving them through Monticello and saying “son, someday that’ll all be under water,” having no idea that he’d be right. “I wrote this song about those days,” he said as he began to play “Green River.” Next came a song neither Dad nor I recognized, and then Fogerty spoke about working on his current album, Wrote a Song for Everyone, which features notable guest performances by Foo Fighters, Miranda Lambert, Bob Seger, and Fogerty’s own sons. (“Who have their own rock and roll band.”) With his sons, he recorded the next song, “Lodi” at Abbey Road in London. “Mystic Highway” followed while the song’s video rolled on the screens.
After “Train of Fools” came “The Midnight Special,” and I noted how much fun the crowd was having. They were, as my dad would say, ‘having a ball!’ and it was a joy to watch. Music aside, what’s really great about Fogerty in person is how much he loves what he does and still does it so well. He’s a genuine talent who seems to actually be a great guy, and he loves to perform. He definitely could teach the current generation a thing or two about how it’s done. “Thank you for singin’ along!” Next was “Hot Rod Heart,” and I looked around, watching all the uninhibited, dance-like-no-one’s-watching moments in the crowd, enjoying it all. “Born on the Bayou” featured a killer instrumental section and a bongo. After “Almost Saturday Night” was a pause, and then a great guitar intro into “Keep On Chooglin’.” At this point I was starting to lose feeling in my fingers – it was a bit more than “brisk” in the open-air theatre, but seeing so many older folks bundled up in sweats and dancing to their hearts’ content was enough to warm even me. My dad asked me if I thought the youngest guitar player was one of his kids, and I shook my head. Of course, I was wrong: it was, in fact, his son Shane. “You thought I forgot about you, didn’t ya?” Fogerty asked his son when he finally introduced him. He went on to tell of a recent night when he introduced Shane’s mom saying he would “be nothing without her” before turning to Shane and quipping, “and you wouldn’t even be here!” The next song was a sad song, he said, “but now it’s happy because it reminds me of my daughter, Kelsy. She’s a rainbow in my life, and this song has a rainbow in it.” The song was the epic “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”
“God bless ya for singin’ along, thank yoooooouuu!” A cover of Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman” was next, and all I can say is what I typed in my notes: so damn fun! There isn’t much else to say. My all-time favorite CCR hit was next, “Down on the Corner,” and then “The Old Man Down the Road,” featuring a great little jam between father and son. “Fortunate Son” featured a video tribute to America and its vets (shots of American flags, veterans coming home, and the like), and concluded the full set. The encore began almost immediately, with Fogerty pointing at the crowd in obvious appreciation for their enthusiasm. “Hey, Tonight” was first, and then Fogerty said, “folks, I just want you to know how much I – we – appreciate such a great audience. God bless ya, rockin’ out, havin’ a great time with us!” Classic hit “Bad Moon Rising” came next, followed by finale “Proud Mary,” which quite simply blew my mind: it was the cherry on top of a delicious sundae I’d order again in a second.
I don’t often get to take my dad to shows with me. The last show we really enjoyed together was a fantastic Stevie Wonder show years ago, and we still talk about it. Not only do I know that will be the case with tonight’s John Fogerty show, but it’s something I’m now happy to say I can cross off my bucket list. My dad said he expected someone of Fogerty’s age and success to be in it for the money by now, and was very happily surprised to discover that he’s wrong: this guy still loves what he does, and does it for the joy of it. Take lessons, young musicians. Because that, my friends, is how it’s done.