It’s hard to overstate the esteem in which California’s own Southern rock giants Creedence Clearwater Revival are held by a new generation of musicians. “I read something on Twitter not long ago about how The Beatles didn’t really even compare to Creedence Clearwater Revival and, you know, in a way they really don’t,” 32-year-old Kentucky songwriter Ian Noe recently told The Independent. “The Beatles didn’t have an ‘Up Around The Bend’. They didn’t have a ‘Bad Moon Rising’. It’s a whole different kind of thing, and they did that, most of the time, in less than three minutes.”
It’s a big claim, but one that Creedence frontman John Fogerty set out to prove in delirious fashion on Saturday night (30 July) at the Hollywood Bowl. Fogerty has kept the band’s flame alive ever since splitting acrimoniously with original members bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford in 1972. Not one to waste time noodling around with new material, Fogerty delights fans by packing his solo set with classic CCR tunes and for good reason; there are a hell of a lot to get through.
Opener “Up Around The Bend” sets the tone, with Fogerty’s glorious guitar riff backed by a spurt of pyrotechnic flames. His voice still sounds sharp and crystal clear, even though he nods towards the ravages of age by telling the audience: “I am so happy to be back at the Hollywood Bowl… I’m happy to be playing music anywhere, to tell you the truth.”
More hits follow, including swamp rock classic “Born On The Bayou” and CCR’s debut single “Suzie Q”, after which Fogerty self-deprecatingly reminisces about feeling like he’d become a “one hit wonder” when it made the band’s name in 1968. Fogerty’s winning, ebullient stage patter is as crowd-pleasing as his song choices, and he delights the audience by revealing he’s holding the same guitar he played at Woodstock before segueing into his song inspired by the festival, 1970’s “Who’ll Stop The Rain”.
“Looking Out My Back Door” is another of the five Top Five singles produced by the definitive CCR record, 1970’s Cosmo’s Factory. The album took its name from the warehouse in Berkeley where Fogerty would make the band practice every day, and nods to the songwriter’s prodigious production line of ear-worming classic rock tunes. These days Fogerty has recruited his family members as fellow workers: sons Shane and Tyler handle guitar duties alongside their dad, and they’re joined by daughter Kelsy and even dog Creedy (short, naturally, for Creedence) for a rare non-hit on the setlist: 1997 solo track “Joy of My Life”, which Fogerty dedicates to the woman who inspired it: his partner of 31 years, Julie Kramer.
There’s still time for a handful more of Fogerty’s electrifying hits including a magical “Down On The Corner” and Vietnam anthem “Fortunate Son” before he closes with the magisterial combination of “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary.” By this point Fogerty has established beyond any reasonable doubt that he was no one hit wonder, and in fact lays serious claim to the title of Great American Songwriter. Like the twin lava lamps he’s arranged on either side of his band’s drumkit, he’s a slice of American history that still looks pretty damn groovy.