At this stage of his career, John Fogerty would have every right to let the swampy, textured rock and soul hits he fashioned over four decades ago as chieftain of Creedence Clearwater Revival, as well as some of the more streamlined tunes penned since then, to stand on their own. But last night at the PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati, there he was, racing from one end of the stage to the other, guitar in hand, egging his audience on as the 1970 Creedence classic Up Around the Bend roared through the concert grounds.
In a way, it was quite endearing to find the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer still playing the role of cheerleader for one of the most distinctive catalogues of any pop era. But it was also encouraging to witness Fogerty, at age 69, still in possession of enough vocal and physical stamina to fuel such performance vigor in the first place. While the years have mellowed some of the dark, roots-driven tone of his singing into an appealing and manageable tenor, nothing in this two hour performance resembled a golden age rocker going through the paces. This was instead a living portrait of an artist still deeply and effortlessly involved with even his most familiar music.
What music it was, too. The concert opened with eight Creedence songs – seven hits led by Travelin’ Band and Green River along with the Cosmo’s Factory epic Ramble Tamble. The latter was especially arresting as it showcased the program’s two most dominate instrumental voices – Fogerty’s guitarwork, which revealed a level of range and invention the heavily rhythmic musicianship of his Creedence days only suggested. The other belonged to drummer Kenny Aronoff, whose playing reflected elements of New Orleans groove that made it a natural fit for the Southern inclined Creedence hits. But the down beat in Aronoff’s playing was also exact, tireless and potent to the point of being atomic.
Beyond that, one could wax on for hours about the setlist alone. At the midway point came Suzie Q with its glorious feedback-enhanced guitar solo. A few songs later we heard Mystic Highway, the show’s newest work, which tempered the Creedence mystique with an Americana reality check. Best of all, perhaps, was Who’ll Stop the Rain, Fogerty’s faithfully performed remembrance of playing Woodstock.
“Everybody else got naked and stoned,” Fogerty said of the legendary festival. “But I actually remembered it.”