John Fogerty has re-invented himself several times in a career that’s spanned more than five decades.
In the beginning Fogerty imitated heroes like Little Richard and Bo Diddley. As he matured as a musician, he became a swamp-rocking, hit-making machine with Creedence Clearwater Revival.
When those relationships sank to the bottom of the bayou in the early 1970s, Fogerty went solo into the world of country, blasted back to rock stardom in the mid-‘1980s, sued his old band-mates, lost a fortune and continued writing songs that stand the test of time.
On Wednesday night at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, the 67-year-old Fogerty, dressed in a red and white plaid shirt, jeans and a red bandana wrapped around his neck, was all of the above and more, taking the sold-out audience for a 105-minute hit-filled musical ride that started fast and finished even stronger.
Scheduled to go on at 8:45 p.m., Fogerty hit the stage about 15 minutes later than planned, but made up for lost time in a hurry, ripping into Hey Tonight, an early hit from CCR’s 1970 album Pendulum. Acknowledging the crowd with a bow of his head, he quickly slammed through a series of early chart-busters and fan favourites, including Lodi and Looking Out My Back Door.
Not one to waste words, Fogerty did tell a short tale of how the song Who’ll Stop the Rain came about, reminding the world that CCR was at the original Woodstock -- though not in the concert film, due to Fogerty's dislike for the band's performance -- where they followed the Grateful Dead, as the waters started pouring from the heavens above.
“It started to rain on half a million people, and the funny thing was there was not an umbrella in sight,” he said.
“So they all got naked and muddy and I went home and wrote this song.”
He had a thing or two to say once it was done, poking fun at his advancing age.
“I realized I’m the only guy up here old enough to be at Woodstock,” he said with a laugh, pointing to his band, a collection of musicians that included drummer Kenny Aronoff, a legend in his own right who’s played with the likes of John Mellencamp, Elton John and the Smashing Pumpkins.
Like father, like son, or so the old saying goes, and Shane Fogerty showed he’s learned a thing or two from his old man on the road, more than holding up his end of his pedigree as one of a legion of guitarists backing the rock and roll hall-of-famer.
Fogerty still sounds as great live as he did in his heyday and danced from one end of the Auditorium stage to the other, looking nothing like a man eligible to collect old-age-security cheques.
There’s no rocking chair that could hold the feisty guitarist, who switched instruments on almost every song, a collection of Fenders and Gibsons lining the edge of the stage, waiting for the man rated the 40th best guitarist of all-time by Rolling Stone magazine, to work his magic.
After a brief jaunt through his solo material, a collection of sings that included Ramble Tamble and Blue Moon Nights, Fogerty was right back into the hit parade, bringing at least a portion of the crowd to its feet with Midnight Special and keeping them there, peering longingly into the crowd before offering up a rip-roaring version of Born on the Bayou, the song he used some 25 years ago to break a self-imposed, 15-year embargo of not performing CCR tunes.
Thankfully for Thunder Bay, those thoughts are long-since passed.
Fogerty wasn’t done talking to the crowd, either.
“This next song is one of my favourites to do. It used to be a sad song for me. It was written during a pretty sad time. But everything has changed in my life. This song reminds me of my beautiful little baby girl Kelsy.
“The reason it does is because Kelsy is a rainbow in my life and this song has a rainbow in it,” he said, the familiar sounds of Have You Ever Seen the Rain filling the sold-out Auditorium, the start of a flourishing finale to come.
Down on the Corner was enough to whip the crowd into a frenzy, then he brought out his baseball-bat guitar, stormed into Centerfield, his 1995-hit about America’s favourite pastime, and followed it up with an equally enthusiastic retelling of the Old Man Down the Road before escaping backstage for a brief moment of silence.
Fogerty’s encore paid homage to the Little Richard hit Good Golly Miss Molly, before he finished with Proud Mary, a sing-a-long he shared with the fans who’d waited so long to see him rock their hometown away.
The band’s next stop on the cross-continent tour is Friday night in Walker, Minn. Other Canadian cities on his current jaunt include Halifax, Sudbury, Winnipeg, Oshawa and Sault Ste. Marie.
Lookin' Out My Back Door
Who'll Stop the Rain
Blue Moon Nights
Born on the Bayou
Don't You Wish it Was
Hot Rod Heart
As Long As I Can See the Light
I Heard it Through the Grapevine
Keep on Chooglin'
Have You Ever Seen the Rain
Down on the Corner
Old Man Down the Road
Good Golly Miss Molly
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