- 28 May 20
Happy 75th Birthday John Fogerty! To celebrate, we're revisiting Pat Carty's review of the former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman's "simply fucking spectacular" headline set at the 3Arena, Dublin, for BluesFest 2018.
We have all had that moment where some prick, me in this instance, tells you about a gig you missed and, as they go through the set list, you shake your head and curse the day you were born because you weren’t there. Let me tell you then that John Fogerty was one of those gigs. If you’ll excuse the French, he was simply fucking spectacular. We knew we were on a winner when, after a career spanning slide show, he took to the stage, resplendent in a sparkly jacket with rockets on it, neckerchief set rakishly to one side, and led the band, complete with three-piece horn section through an impossibly rockin’ ‘Travellin’ Band’. "737 Coming Out Of The Sky, Won't You Take Me Down To Memphis On A Midnight Ride. I Want To Move!". I mean, Come On! Frankly, he could have gone back to the hotel at this point, and I’d still be raving about him.
‘Green River’ goes straight into ‘Hey Tonight’ and then into ‘Up Around The Bend’. The place is absolutely hopping as Fogerty, a man in his seventies, runs around the stage like someone a third of his age. It reminds me of Joe Strummer, years ago in the Olympia, roaring at his young band to keep up. His guitar lines, as they were on those original records, are perfect- economically serving the song behind them. The contrast with Miller’s noodling couldn’t be starker. He reminds us that his Rickenbacker and amp are the same ones he played at Woodstock before ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’, then there’s the perfect Don Rich Bakersfield playing of ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’, and the eighties/fifties sax in ‘Rock N’ Roll Girls’. Can you see now what I was saying about the set list?
This superbly tight band then blast through Little Richard’s ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ and The Sonic’s ‘Psycho’, featuring Fogerty’s son Tyler on vocals – despite his magnificent red nudie suit, he can’t dance for shit, but he sure can sing, and he is suitably mortified when his Da leads the crowd though ‘Happy Birthday’ in his honour – before things are slowed down for ‘Long As I can See The Light’, demonstrating how that voice hasn’t lost an ounce of the soul that carried the pleading original. “I Heard It through The Grapevine’ gives the great man a chance to take a break as the keyboard player goes to town – his solo ranges from New Orleans to Havana – and then, god help us, the bass player – more pony tails and sunglasses - takes a turn. The boss comes back on to restore order with a guitar-led finish, helped out by his other son, Shane, who plays as mean a guitar as his Pa.
Creedence’s back catalogue is truly the proverbial embarrassment of riches but the spooky swamp stew of ‘Born On The Bayou’ might be their finest few minutes. It’s got an intro the rivals even ‘Gimme Shelter’ and the snaky tremolo guitar lines evoke the backwoods of Fogerty’s imagination as well as anything else they did. He’s on fire here, coaxing feedback from a cowering instrument.
He shamelessly plays the Irish card by explaining that it’s been a dream of his to come back here – his only other Irish show was supporting Tina Turner in The RDS about twenty years ago – and that a recent DNA test has established him as 44% Irish, which is an acceptable percentage on this election day. He then takes us down to New Orleans for Rockin’ Sidney’s ‘Toot Toot’ with washboard and accordion and Hank William’s ‘Jambalaya’ with a perfect Professor Longhair piano break. During Gary “US” Bonds’ ‘New Orleans’ Fogerty Jr. leads a second line-style procession into the crowd dressed as a leprechaun. “Hold On!” you might cry, “We’re not having any of that clichéd shite!” but the crowd lap it up, excusing it as a small price to pay for such a ridiculously great show. Miller must be sat in his dressing room wondering where he went wrong.
Fogerty goes full Eddie Van Halen before kicking into a crushing ‘Keep On Chooglin’, wherein he gives the drummer some and gets the harmonica out while pyrotechnics explode in the background. He sings ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain?’ for his daughter, but you can’t really hear him as the crowd have taken over by this point, and they keep going through ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ and ‘Down On The Corner’.
The solo ’Old Man Down The Road’ fits right in, as it should when you remember the bizarre case of Fogerty being sued by his old record company for plagiarising himself when it came out in 1985. ‘Fortunate Son’, a song that could have been aimed at the bone spurs of the current White House incumbent, finishes out the main set, levelling the place as confetti cannons fire, streamers –red, white and blue naturally - fall from the ceiling and giant sparklers fire at the back of the stage. If all this is a result of Fogerty’s recent Las Vegas residency, then more rockers should take that particular soup. This is a rock n’ roll show.
They encore - there was no way this crowd was taking no for an answer - with the double-time of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and, of course, ‘Proud Mary’ carried by the horn section, and then the lights finally come up on an exhausted, exhilarated throng. A good question might be to ask what he didn’t play - ‘Lodi’? ‘Run Through The Jungle’? - it doesn’t matter. You couldn’t have asked for a better show to swell the heart of the true believers. I’m been listening to Creedence since I was a child, I’d never seen Fogerty before; I was worried I’d be disappointed. I most assuredly wasn’t.
Simply Fucking Spectacular.