RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, New York, July 2, 1998

Anybody who saw any of John Fogerty's shows last year supporting his Grammy-winning Warner Bros. set "Blue Moon Swamp" knew that no rock show this year would top the Foge's current run behind his just-released "Premonition" live album (featuring many of the prized late '60s and early '70s classic rock staples from his Creedence Clearwater Revival catalog -- which he had long denied his fans ever since his bitter legal disputes with that band's label, Fantasy Records).

The only real question this evening was, how measurable would be the absence of powerhouse drummer Kenny Aronoff, who departed the world's greatest rock show to sit behind the kit for the Smashing Pumpkins on their world tour The answer: measurable, but not detrimental. Maybe there's a drummer or two who can fully replace Aronoff's energy and flamboyance, and if Nashville-based Michael Cartelone (formerly with country singer Suzy Bogguss and hard-rock band Damn Yankees) can't quite, well, he did a more-than-effective job trying. And the rest of Fogerty's rock-solid band, thankfully, remains intact, with guitarists Johnny Lee Schell and Michael Knipe, along with bassist Bob Glaub.

The other changes, then, were in the set list, with Fogerty wisely substituting a number of fresh CCR staples that he didn't have time for in his two previous N.Y.C. engagements last year -- undoubtedly leaving fans of those songs now dissatisfied, though only slightly. But God knows he can't do all of his Creedence hits and "Blue Moon Swamp" songs and still send everyone home by 11 p.m.

Among the new songs performed were, of course, "Premonition" and a cover of Hank William's "Jambalaya," which Fogerty recorded on his 1973 debut solo set, "Blue Ridge Rangers" (on which he played all the instruments!). The "gonna-have-big-fun-on-the-bayou" classic was perfect, naturally, for Fogerty's patented "swamp-rock" style, not to mention his stunning stage set: a painted backdrop, carried over from last tour, that showed a bayou setting, with a tree snake, frog, turtle, pelican, and banjo-playing gator all sporting Fogerty's trademark red bandannas. And, as the set progressed, the blazing sun dimmed, the skies darkened, and the smiling blue moon of the "Blue Moon Swamp" album emerged.

An especially noteworthy performance was Fogerty's version of "Cotton Fields," the old Leadbelly folk song that Creedence recorded on the "Willie & the Poorboys" set. Here, though, Fogerty just mouthed the words, successfully prompting the house to sing the tune in its entirety. But CCR's first hit, "Suzie Q" (1968), was given the same treatment as on the previous tour and "Premonition" album: Playing through the amplifier he used on the song back then, he again segued directly into Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You," with an incredibly intense, extended guitar solo that reminded attendees of a time when guitar solos actually made sense and told a story.

And note need be made, too, of "Centerfield," in which Fogerty again brought out his Louisiana Slugger baseball bat guitar. On this and on "Blue Moon Swamp"'s "Rambunctious Boy"-- oh, hell, on every song throughout the whole show -- Fogerty demonstrated as no one else seems to be able to do any more that you can still play rock'n'roll with an unbridled joy, even in your '50s, for a crowd of aging '60s and '70s types who still want to rock out all the way with you.

[Jim Bessman]

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RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, New York, July 2, 1998

It's all but impossible to completely suss out John Fogerty's relationship with his past. Since Creedence Clearwater Revival's late-'60s heyday, he's denied it, borrowed from it and even been sued over it. Wednesday night, in one of his first shows in about a decade, he proudly reclaimed it.

Now he has to figure out how to deal with the present. Fogerty's two-hour, twenty-three song set leaned heavily on Creedence classics, but from the opener -- a stiff, deliberate "Born on the Bayou" -- it was obvious something wasn't right. Two or three songs into the set, it became evident that Fogerty's voice, a wondrous combination of purity and power in Creedence's prime, hasn't aged well. He had trouble reaching some high notes, and during "Fortunate Son," his vocals took on the thin, tremulous quality of Neil Young's. Still, he sang every song with energy and conviction, mostly compensating for lost punch with phrasing and personality.

Thankfully, time hasn't eroded Fogerty's guitar playing. Backed by a crack band, he played with the confidence and ease his vocals lacked. A consistently underrated player, he deftly merged the styles of Scotty Moore, Paul Burlison, Hubert Sumlin and James Burton with psychedelia's sonic adventurousness.

A brief, mid-set acoustic interlude showcased his work on dobro, and provided one of the evening's highlights, a passionate cover of "Working on a Building." The seven songs Fogerty performed from the exquisitely wrought but somewhat inert "Blue Moon Swamp" came off far better live. Freed from the airless perfection of the studio, they took on a new life -- especially the gritty "Walking in a Hurricane." Still, they paled in comparison to his Creedence material.

But to Fogerty's credit, the show never seemed like a cynical greatest hits rehash. In fact, it seemed as though he barely scratched the surface of his songbook. The encore of "Proud Mary" and "Travelin' Band" was inevitable, but it's all too easy to choose any number of Creedence tunes that would have worked just as well. Even revisiting material he's rarely played live, Fogerty seemed a humble frontman, genuinely touched by the crowd's enthusiastic response to his songs. When he sang "Centerfield," he came off less as a rookie looking for his big break than a grizzled veteran trying to prove he still has the stuff to stay in the game. And though his voice has grown ragged around the edges, there's no reason he shouldn't.

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RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, New York, July 2, 1998


Reported by Frank Tortorici

NEW YORK -- If you didn't know any better, you might have thought that John Fogerty's career was still peaking and that the classic roots-rock singles that made him famous were back at the top of the charts.

Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall, Fogerty -- former leader of the multimillion-selling rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival -- performed a prodigious, career-spanning set with enthusiasm and charm. He played many of the classic songs that he wrote for CCR in the '60s and '70s, and he blasted out selected tunes from his most recent collection of original material, the Grammy-winning 1997 album Blue Moon Swamp.

One baby boomer, Dennis Mincin, a mutual-fund claims manager from Belleville, N.J., who said he felt as if he'd been given a second chance at experiencing a rock pioneer, put the night in its proper historical perspective: "[Most of us were] too young [to see Fogerty] when Creedence was around. And they didn't tour much in the East."

After Creedence suffered an acrimonious breakup in the mid-'70s, Fogerty played few concerts and recorded only sporadically during the past two decades. He laid low because of legal entanglements with his music publishers and his old record company. When he did tour, which was infrequently, he always left out the classic Creedence cuts that he'd written, such as the swamp-rock opus, "Born On The Bayou" (RealAudio excerpt).

But, at the Music Hall that night, it was like he never left. In the middle of his tour to promote his new live album, Premonition, Fogerty was joyful and confident onstage for what was his first show ever at the famous Manhattan venue.

While some may have forgotten the breadth of Fogerty's talent while he's been out of the limelight, his current vitality was remarkable. His contractual hassles settled, Fogerty now is willing to plumb his entire songbook, from Creedence through his solo career.

Flashing a wide grin for most of the time he was onstage, the trim 53-year-old singer, guitarist and songwriter, dressed all in black, tore into "Bayou" and other CCR chestnuts such as "Green River" and "Lodi" with the energy of a teen-ager.

Fogerty, working his Southern twang, showcased his strong voice and blazing guitar on numbers from Blue Moon Swamp. He and his tight, five-piece Dirty Dozen Gator Swamp Band also took on songs that Creedence covered during their heyday, including "Susie Q." (with Fogerty zipping his fingers down the guitar neck to create a shrieking effect), "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and "I Put A Spell On You."

The familiar sounds drove the crowd of thirty- and fortysomethings into a frenzy. They danced in their seats and sang the choruses for Fogerty. One guy even brought a guitar along and mock-played it in the audience.

Fogerty addressed the crowd's delight after each number with some of the most exuberant and heartfelt thank-yous likely ever heard at a rock concert. His frequent shrieks of "ow" and animated facial expressions were constant reminders that he was having a great time up there, and it was contagious.

"He just seems so joyful again," said Eileen Campion, 35, a New York City PR consultant.

Fogerty was wild under the spotlight, often duck-walking around the stage a la Chuck Berry and playing a baseball-shaped guitar during his ode to America's pastime, "Centerfield." He slowed things down a bit for the Creedence arrangement of the traditional "Cotton Fields," which initiated a long audience sing-along, and the 1997 ode to his wife, Julie, "Joy of My Life" (RealAudio excerpt).

Before he performed "Joy," which was more honky-tonk than the studio version on Blue Moon Swamp, Fogerty told the crowd that "love is the greatest" and wished everyone the same happiness that he has found.

For most of the slower songs, Fogerty brought his Swamp Band to the front of the stage. The ensemble, including L.A. session veteran Bob Glaub on bass, played acoustic instruments on gems such as "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" The campfire-like interplay was made all the more intimate by the set decoration, which transformed the stage into a faux blue-moon swamp complete with crocodiles, man-in-the-moon, snakes, marshes and shacks.

During "Blue Moon Nights," the good-time nature of the sounds and the swampy atmosphere achieved perfect synchronicity. Corny as it seemed, fans were holding on to each other and even swaying to the music.

The crowd's feverish, reverent reaction to Fogerty was in direct contrast to the audience response to Whiskeytown. The modern country-rock ensemble opened the show with a 25-minute set that was marred by a muddled sound setup and an indifferent attitude on the part of bandmembers to the paying customers.

For his part, Fogerty was humble. "It is an honor and joy to play for people like you," he told his fans as he closed the night. "You treat us with great honor."

And he rewarded the faithful with a string of ferocious set-closers, including "Fortunate Son," "Proud Mary" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Travelin' Band," during which the house lights pulsed to the beat.

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John Fogerty, The Sydney Entertainment Centre, Thursday, November 12th 1998.

Well. I can't say how long I've been looking forward to this concert. A very long time. Having an exam on Wednesday and an exam on Friday I was fortunate to be able to catch the train up from uni in Canberra and squeeze in this beauty. And only 15 minutes walk from my house!!

Anyways, the Sydney Entertainment Centre is notorious for it's bad acoustics because it is primarily a basketball and circus venue, holding around ten thousand people (give or take a couple of thousand depending on who you talk to). It was about 90% full for the first of his two night run in Sydney, and his first concert in Australia in 26 Years!

The opening act was Marie Wilson, an Australian also on Warner Records, sort of like a cross between Sheryl Crow and Bryan Adams. I arrived half way through her half hour set at 8:15 after grabbing a great cheap meal a block away in Chinatown. She was fairly average, and between songs endlessly plugged herself and her web site.

There was a 30 minute break before the night really started, with the familiar swamp noises of the intro to "Born on the Bayou". Having a concert on tape and having seen Premonition, I more or less knew what to expect setlist wise. In no particular order he also played: (sort of order)

  • Green River
  • Lodi
  • Who'll stop the Rain
  • Suzie Q. >> I put a spell on you
  • Premonition
  • Bring it down to Jelly Roll
  • Up Around the Bend
  • Rambunctious Boy
  • Down on the Corner
  • Rockin' All Over the World
  • Workin' on a Building
  • Joy of my life
  • Blue Moon Nights
  • Centerfield
  • Jambalaya (on the Bayou)
  • Have you ever seen the rain?
  • Wrote a Song for Everyone
  • Cottonfields
  • Old Man Down the Road
  • Midnight Special
  • Lookin' Out My Back Door
  • Hod Rod Heart
  • Bad Moon Rising
  • I heard it through the grapevine
  • Fortunate Son
  • The encore consisted of Proud Mary and Travelin' Band.

It's late and I'm tired, so I'll write the rest of the review in point form:

  1. There weren't the female backup singers or the Fairfield Four... which I think is a good thing. The whole concert was just John and his band.
  2. They played for two and ten minutes including encores.
  3. After almost every second song John would throw guitar picks into the crowd. About 2/3 of the way through the concert, John saw a young boy in the front row and decided to give him a pick. He ended up giving about 6 to the crowd before the boy finally got one, because other people would grab them. After that John mentioned that he heard the country was settled by convicts.
  4. Crowd was mostly made up of 30 and 40 something's, and as a result only a few people on their feet for the whole show.. mostly a few people down the front, and a few teenagers up the back. Lack of young folks largely due to promotion as "see the guy from Creedence" and ticket price of $67.
  5. Generally chatty for the whole show, introduced the band near the end, mentioned the Woodstock Amp, gave the speel about how good love is and how he wouldn't be here if it weren't for Julie. Also mentioned that he's sorry it took him so long to get back to Australia. Before Grapevine, asked for requests from the front row and said someguy asked for Stairway to Heaven, and another asked for Purple Haze.
  6. In Cottonfields he only sang about 3 words, introducing the song, asking us to sing along and we all sang. Big sing alongs on Have you ever seen the rain? and Midnight special also.
  7. "Wrote a Song..." was almost entirely solo acoustic by John, and was also a nice surprise.
  8. Lots and lots of guitar changes!
  9. My highlights: Definitely Grapevine with Drum Solo!. John's playing was excellent, with most guitar solos extra long, with John jumping around stage as usual. Suzie Q was slower and longer, closer to the CCR version than any other Fogerty version I've heard. Rambunctious boy also went off and Jambalaya was a nice surprise.
  10. There was big audience reaction to "Bring it down to Jelly Roll"... lots of people decided to leave to get more snacks and go to the toilet.
  11. In the half hour break before John came out, the PA music consisted of 3rd Eye Blind, Matchbox 20 and other stuff.
  12. Big Audience reaction to "Old Man Down the Road", "Fortunate Son" and "Premonition".
  13. Not very big audience reaction Grapevine... the guy next to me yawned! What sacrilege!
  14. Centerfield seemed an odd choice due to the fact baseball is about as popular down here as lacrosse (ie not popular at all)

Full of Energy from everyone. Great guitar work by John, who seemed happier than ever. The new drummer blew me away (I thought no one could replace Kenny!).
No major song surprises, a little predictable, but a good stong set, if a little short.
Great night out! Great Concert! Hope it doesn't take him another 26 years to come back to Australia.

Dylan Behan

"That was then, and this is now... well... sort of." - Fraques

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