The singer performs every song from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Cosmo’s Factory, along with a bevy of other hits, in a powerhouse L.A. show.
John Fogerty is so good, it's easy to take the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer for granted.
My first live encounter with him came in April 1992 when he blew away all the other featured artists at a Walden Woods benefit concert at Universal Amphitheatre – not an easy feat considering his set was followed by outstanding turns from Neil Young, Roger Waters and Don Henley. Fast-forward to the 2008 Stagecoach Festival in Indio and Fogerty's set resonantly triumphed over the Eagles' headlining appearance that followed.
That takes us to Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Thursday night (Oct. 10, 2013), where the 68-year-old singer-songwriter and guitar hero delivered yet another knockout. For 140 wonderful minutes, he proved to be a master at mixing up Creedence Clearwater Revival classics, Centerfield-era solo hits and newer material that confirmed his writing talents remain as potent as the licks he unleashed on any number of electric and acoustic guitars he used during his 31-song set.
Indeed, at this kickoff of a fall tour that will take him throughout the United States over the next month or so, Fogerty proved again that he is one of rock's golden-age icons who is still able to fully deliver.
Backed by a terrific five-man band – most notably muscular drummer Kenny Aronoff (known for his work with John Mellencamp and Orange County's own Walter Trout) and at times two female backing vocalists – Fogerty was sadly not joined by any of the notables (Keith Urban, Bob Seger, Foo Fighters and others) who contributed to his most recent album, Wrote a Song for Everyone. But few fans seemed disappointed with the parade of rousing jewels he powerfully played.
A key element this night: the performance of every song off CCR's 1970 classic Cosmo's Factory, recognized as one of the California quartet's greatest albums. Opening with “Travelin' Band” set the pace for a breathtaking run that offered a chance to hear the master dig deep into album tracks. Fogerty seemed to have a blast while showing off his command of rockabilly guitar on “Ooby Dooby,” and he later spoke of his love of Mississippi blues before leading the band through a version of Bo Diddley's “Before You Accuse Me,” the flannel-clad singer's mightily expressive voice bellowing with Delta authenticity.
CCR fans were likely in heaven when Fogerty and his group tore through “My Baby Left Me,” originally an Elvis Presley hit reworked with a country-rock touch in delightful ways and wonderfully replicated more than four decades on.
From his earliest days growing up in Berkeley, Fogerty was inspired and informed by rock and blues icons such as Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. But by the time he led CCR through its brief but trailblazing career in the late '60s and early '70s, he was mixing those strains with country, Cajun and gospel. All those sounds were celebrated via energetic versions of his originals and respectful remakes.
The acoustic Americana of “Who'll Stop the Rain,” a countrified version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (originally made famous by Marvin Gaye) and the gospel-graced “Long As I Can See the Light” (another Cosmo's Factory gem) were worlds apart musically, yet each allowed Fogerty to exercise distinct parts of his artistic personality.
“Green River” found him playing some of his heaviest lead-guitar work, mining the kind of meaty distortion lines that are Young's bread and butter when he's with Crazy Horse. A few songs later, Fogerty's introspective new song “Mystic Highway” allowed him to display equal skills on rhythm guitar, with guitarist Devon Pangle and keyboardist Bob Malone handling solos on the breezy country tune.
Fogerty continues to push himself as a singer and guitarist. On “Born on the Bayou,” he used a sweet falsetto to strike some heartfelt notes, while “Keep on Chooglin'” found him thrilling the near-capacity crowd with a torrent of hammering, speedy leads. As if that wasn't enough to dazzle, he even layered the song with a livewire harmonica solo.
The audience's energy level swelled as the night neared the two-hour mark. “Who'll Stop the Rain” might be a folk-rocker, but at Nokia a vigorous sing-along on the choruses turned it into something mightier.
A mostly faithful version of Roy Orbison's “Oh, Pretty Woman” and a swamp-boogie take on “Up Around the Bend” also got people on their feet, while an encore featuring “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary” (the latter with everybody seemingly hollering at the top of their lungs) ended the celebratory night.
Photo: Armando Brown, for the Register