About 25 guitars lined the stage of the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday night; Gibson Les Pauls in various colors, a row of Fender Stratocasters, a few different Martin acoustic guitars, all placed upright and ready to go. Those guitars, an electric bass, and a few microphones-along with some people to play along-were all that John Fogerty needed. On tour in support of 2007’s Revival, the singer/songwriter of nearly 40 years’ worth of rock ‘n’ roll hits came onstage looking as happy to be performing as a teenager on his first gig. “Born on the Bayou” sounded just the same as always-mean, rough-edged, and fun-if not better.
The opening act, Cross Canadian Ragweed, gave us an idea of how good things were going to be. The alt-country band from Oklahoma laid down several fine songs with an unashamed twang and a lot of guitar distortion. Their short set included “In Oklahoma,” a realistic tribute to their home state, and an ironic hangover song that told us to keep it down while being loud. They were so busy playing, they barely said who they were-and off they went with a “thanks for having us.”
But Fogerty showed us where it all came from. He promised to play some songs from his new album, then announced, “But this isn’t one of them,” launching into “Bad Moon Rising” with blazing loud guitars pushing feedback through the crowd. He let “The Midnight Special” lift us up and shine a light on us. He wondered aloud, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and sounded as if he really thought someone might tell him, 37 years after Woodstock inspired him to write the song. And his band, including guitarist Billy Burnett (who looks and sounds like Elvis), bassist Dave Santos, and drummer Kenny Aronoff, rocked right along.
The big finale-not counting the many generous encores he gave-rose above the Bowl like a dream. “Suzie Q” (the 1968 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit) rang out clearly, along with the new “Don’t You Wish It Was True.” Forty years later, he’s still happy to be singing, and ready to make wishes come true.