John Fogerty Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion October 20, 2013
John Fogerty made an odd song choice about two hours into his set Cynthia Woods Sunday night: "Oh, Pretty Woman." No disrespect to the 1964 Roy Orbison standard, but come on. Who really needs to hear "Pretty Woman" again, even if it's John Fogerty singing it?
You'll notice I said "about two hours" up there. "Pretty Woman" was one of 25 songs Fogerty and his ace six-piece band played Sunday, plus two encores in "Bad Moon Rising" and "Proud Mary." Plenty of his own compositions could have filled that slot quite nicely: "Travelin' Band," "Commotion," or "Run Through the Jungle," to name a few that didn't make the cut.
But at some point after "Pretty Woman," I thought, why woudn't he play it? Orbison was not only an influence on Fogerty but someone he came to know as one of his peers, and at this point the shadow Fogerty casts over rock and roll (and now country music, really) is easily equal that of the man in the dark shades from Wink, Texas. Not that Fogerty would ever say so himself.
One reason those songs didn't make Sunday's cut -- neither did "Someday Never Comes," for that matter -- is because the deeper cuts from Creedence Clearwater Revival's 1969 album Bayou Country took their place, songs like "Bootlegger," "Graveyard Train" and "Penthouse Pauper." The first of three albums Fogerty's former band released in 1969, Bayou Country is no good-time singalong album. It's more like a Walker Percy novel run through Albert King's electric-blues amplifier, full of sketchy characters who never seem to be too far away from railroad tracks, and played at hurricane-like velocity.
These days CCR has sadly faded from memory, somewhat, perhaps by older people who forget what perfect songs "Bad Moon Rising" and "Lookin' Out My Back Door" really were, or else younger folks who just never found out. But Fogerty is not some oldies act. CCR ended acrimoniously, but their songs still sting, be they the venom of frustrated veterans in "Fortunate Son" or the tears over the band's 1972 breakup in "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?", Sunday's biggest singalong until "Proud Mary."
The band's end wounded Fogerty's career for years while he was caught up a crippling battle with his former label over royalties, which led to one of the most absurd lawsuits in rock history. According to his former record label, Fogerty plagiarized his own "Run Through the Jungle" on 1985 Top 10 single "The Old Man Down the Road," a case Fogerty won after a costly trial.
But there was no bitterness Sunday, just one guitar solo after another and plenty of smiles as Fogerty and guitarist son Shane coaxed each other through the depths of "Lodi" or an even more elongated version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" than the one that appears on Cosmo's Factory. Once Fogerty and his band were out of Bayou Country (except "Proud Mary," of course), he flashed a hair-raising psychedelic rave-up on "Ramble Tamble" some dazzling power-pop on "Rock and Roll Girls," and landed smack in "Centerfield." It was hard to say Sunday whether Fogerty slipped "Midnight Special" into the set because of Leadbelly's infamous lyric about Houston, but the way he kissed the lyric as he sang the line, he might have.
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All throughout the show, as all this Americana rushed by like one of Fogerty's beloved trains, I couldn't help but think about Bruce Springsteen. The two men sort of belong to different rock generations -- Springsteen didn't really arrive until 1975's Born to Run; Fogerty, as he pointed out Sunday, played Woodstock, following the Grateful Dead at 2:30 a.m. (!) -- but he is only four short years older than the Poet of Asbury Park. Both men's songs are saturated with American iconography: trains, baseball, dead-end towns in the middle of nowhere or down by the shore.
But Fogerty has never attached the same amount of self-mythologizing to his own work that Springsteen has. Unless he is the single most disingenuous member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a scenario that is about as credible as that spurious long-ago lawsuit, he really does just want to play the guitar and write songs. And he still can, trotting out a social-media-skewering new song called "Nobody Here Anymore" (or maybe "Hear") that reminded my dad of Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing."
And yet his catalog, including that one, can stand right alongside the Boss' and -- that's right, I'll say it -- may even surpass it. Tina Turner knows a pretty good song when she hears one, after all.
Personal Bias: Oh, you know. I'm a big fan of the way American mythology butts up against three chords and the truth.
The Crowd: Late-arriving sliver foxes dancing in the aisles by "Down On the Corner."
Overheard In the Crowd: "Hey, you want a Fogerty T-shirt?"
Random Notebook Dump: Bayou Country is a pretty sticky album (during "Keep On Chooglin'.")
Hey Tonight Born On the Bayou Bootleg Penthouse Pauper Graveyard Train Keep On Chooglin' Green River Porterville Who'll Stop the Rain I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye cover) Lookin' Out My Back Door Mystic Highway Hot Rod Heart Nobody Hear Anymore (new song) Ramble Tamble Blue Moon Nights Midnight Special (Leadbelly cover) Long as I Can See the Light Rock and Roll Girls Have You Ever Seen the Rain Oh, Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison cover) Down On the Corner Centerfield Up Around the Bend The Old Man Down the Road Fortunate Son
Bad Moon Rising Proud Mary
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