John Fogerty. At the Santa Barbara Bowl, Sunday, September

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

John-Fogerty-Web.jpgIt’s tempting to create a new precept
for criticism here: If the Bowl is rocking, don’t bother knocking.
Unquestionably, hit-maker John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater fame
gave an amphitheater full of rockers (of a certain age) the ride
they sought, fueled with nostalgia and honed to radio-version
delivery time: about 20 songs in an hour and 45 minutes. It all
began with “Playing in a Traveling Band” and “Green River,” moved
through a solid core of brilliant covers like “I Put a Spell on
You” and “Midnight Special,” then choogled, bootlegged, and chased
down a few hoodoos to end with “Fortunate Son,” “Bad Moon Rising,”
and “Proud Mary.” People who saw me scribbling notes came over and
warned me this was a great show. “On a scale of one to 10,” one
intense woman leaned over the rickety chairs to inform me, “This
was a 15.”

Why was I not engaged then? I am of that certain age. It wasn’t
the aw-shucks man himself, coming on after a rousing, dirty set by
Lucinda Williams, though his performance seemed more dork than duck
walk. It was the obviousness of the hit list contrasted with
moments of gorgeous genius that kept throwing me out of love. When
acts are growing and artists are creating, they put on shows that
deliver new material through the spectrum of the old hits,
rearranged to make the new stuff have a context. This material just
came out, burp, and in forms that would not have pleased a 1970s
(altered) audience. I pray we never go back to interminably long,
jammy versions of every recording, but this wham-bam, thank you
ma’am is strictly for the, well, happy audience at the Bowl.

Several moments soared, and particularly during the guitar
symphonic psychedelia of “Ramble Tamble,” where Fogerty, who was in
great voice throughout, showed forbearance, care, and passion. It
was vivid and bitter roots Americana in ways “Proud Mary” will
never be. He also sang a protest song against the current war. For
those two moments, I’m glad I saw the man, nay, the legend, even if
my critical faculties never quite got rocked up to 15.


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