By Chyrisse Tabone, Tampa Correspondent
Venue: Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre, Tampa on May 16, 2015
The year 1969 was a turbulent, fantastic, heart-breaking, and joyous year rolled into one. Nixon became President, the draft and Vietnam War raged on, the Zodiac Killer terrorized San Fran Bay, and the Summer of Love was in full swing with the Atlanta International Pop Festival in July and later Woodstock in August. Man walked on the moon for the second time in November and the year ended with the deadly Altamonte Speedway concert in December.
During this landmark year, Creedance Clearwater Revival (CCR), the El Cerrito-bred band with its brand of swamp or Southern roots rock, swept the charts after releasing its self-titled album the year before. In 1969, the band released three Top 10 albums (Bayou Country, Green River, and Willy and the Poor Boys), had four hit singles in the Top 5, and three additional B-sides climbing the charts. They appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show not only once, but twice, singing “Proud Mary,” “Down on the Corner,” and the politically-charged anthem “Fortunate Son.” All of this, including two major festivals under their belt, made 1969 a banner year for Creedance Clearwater Revival.
In Spring 2015, John Fogerty launched his “1969 One Extraordinary Year” tour in the U.S. I was able to catch his concert at the Mid-Florida Credit Union Ampthitheatre in Tampa, Florida. It was a perfect, balmy May evening as the Baby Boomer crowd rolled into the amphitheatre. Notwithstanding, it appeared the mostly silver-haired crowd was accompanied by children and even grandchildren interested in seeing a classic American songwriter and singer. CCR’s music is almost 50 years old but stands the test of time with its trademark sing-along, lyrical tales and catchy rock rhythms.
The concert started with a 15-minute rockumentary introduction of John Fogerty discussing 1969 and the cultural, societal, and political impacts. This was definitely a history lesson for the Generation X’ers and Millennials in attendance and set the tone and spirit of this iconic year. Fogerty described the avante garde clothing and the free-spirit nature of the “hippies” he observed in San Francisco Bay, saying “The idea was color because the other generation was black and white.” He described his affinity toward the “working man clothes” like long-sleeved, plaid flannel shirts (which he still performs in today). Fogerty described the impact of the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement, and how he was even arrested while protesting. He cherished meeting B.B. King and Booker T & the MGs at the Atlanta Pop Festival and described playing to practically an audience of one at Woodstock since the audience consisted of mostly “naked, sleeping hippies.“ Fogerty was inspired by not only the moon walk but the “super volatile and chaotic time…a confrontation of generation and values” when writing “Bad Moon Rising.”
After the video ended and most of the audience had settled into their seats, a very young John Fogerty was shown on the screen singing “Born on the Bayou.” As the video played, smoke rose from the stage, sparklers shot into the air, and Fogerty sauntered out playing his Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. He said to the crowd, “I’m here to rock and roll for you all! We put out three albums in one year!”
From this point, Fogerty launched into a collection of CCR hits with theme videos, rising smoke, colorful confetti, and even pyro-effects for the next two and one half hours! The concert was chock-full of good, classic rock and roll at its best—and Fogerty was the master. He was backed by top-notch musicians such as well-regarded (and possibly the most sought after drummer in the world) Kenny Aronoff; Bob Malone ( piano, organ); James Lomenzo ( bass); Devon Pangle (guitar); and his very own son Shane ( guitar). One could see how proud Fogerty is of his son who beamed at the concert, “My son recently graduated from USC with a 4.0 average.”
Fogerty played “Travelin’Band” with videos of historical news clippings in the background and then propelled into Dale Hawkin’s “Susie Q,” his first hit single. Videos of lava lamps and dancing go-go girls flashed in the background as rounds of fireworks were launched in the adjacent parking lot. Apparently this was not choreographed as part of the act because they popped and exploded as Fogerty was trying to chat with the audience about his experience at Woodstock. He quipped saying “It sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean” and later in the concert joked, “I thought they were trying to sabotage me.”
Fogerty then played “Who’ll Stop the Rain” which was inspired by the mud-filled weekend at Woodstock and later “Out My Backdoor.” He then paid homage to his best friend and loving wife Julie singing “Joy of My Life.”
Forgerty spoke plain talk, and had a “conversation with the audience.” He joked about his full-rack of guitars on stage saying, “I take a ribbing for having so many guitars but it pales in comparison to my wife’s shoe collection.” He explained how he was introduced to each guitar brand and/or make (e.g., Rickenbacker, Gibson Les Paul, Fender Telecaster), played a few signature riffs to demonstrate the tone of each, and segued into songs like “Midnight Special,” one of the few covers of the evening.
During the evening, Fogerty spotlighted the other musicians in the band and took the backseat. During “Midnight Special,” drummer power-house Kenny Aronoff broke into a wild drum solo, wailing on the toms and snares with such passion and technique that I agreed with Fogerty’s assessment “he is the best rock drummer in the world.” During “Old Man Down the Road” Fogerty and his son performed dueling guitar lead solos, which was touching and emphasized that Shane is a “chip off the old block.” During “Heard It Through the Grapevine” Bob Malone banged out honky-tonk riffs on the electric piano (reminiscent of the late Ian “Mac” McLaren) and James Lomenzo plucked and slapped one of the most famous bass lines in rock history.
Fogerty later slowed down the pace when he sat at a beautiful candle-decorated grand piano. He explained his inspiration to play a “beat-up” piano at home, attempting to emulate his idols Jerry Lee Lewis and Hewey Smith. When he sang the gospel-tinged “Long As I Can See the Light” I was transported to my childhood when I used to play this B-side single on my little suitcase monaural turntable. The A-side was “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.” What a personal and sentimental moment for me!
Other highlights of the evening were “Fortunate Son” which featured videos of Vietnam War protesting (e.g., “Not Their Sons” posters) and shooting pyrotechnic flames. By this time in the evening, I was chair-dancing and in rock n’ roll heaven!
Fogerty truly went through his “Greatest Hits” catalogue of not only CCR favorites but a few recent solo hits like “Centerfield.” By the end of the evening, the somewhat settled crowd loosened up and sang along to “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and “Down on the Corner.” The crowd was standing and clapping, confetti was sprayed, and even the 20-somethings were dancing to the encore numbers “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary.”
I have to say that John Fogerty completely captured the feeling and soul of CCR’s music and the phenomenal year 1969. Big wheels keep on turnin’….and Fogerty keeps rollin’ and rollin’….
1. Born on the Bayou (CCR)
2. Travelin’ Band (CCR)
3. Susie Q (Dale Hawkins cover)
4. Up Around the Bend (CCR)
5. Who’ll Stop the Rain (CCR)
6. Lookin’ Out My Back Door (CCR)
7. Sweet Hitch-Hiker (CCR)
8. Joy of My Life
9. Midnight Special (Lead Belly cover)
10. Keep On Chooglin’ (CCR)
11. Hey Tonight (CCR)
12. New Orleans (Gary “U.S.” Bonds cover)
13. Lodi (CCR)
14. Green River (CCR)
15. Mystic Highway
16. Hot Rod Heart
17. Ramble Tamble (CCR)
18. Long As I Can See the Light (CCR)
19. I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Smokey Robinson & The Miracle cover
20. Have You Ever Seen the Rain
21. Down on the Corner (CCR)
23. The Old Man Down the Road
24. Fortunate Son (CCR)
25. Bad Moon Rising (CCR)
26. Proud Mary (CCR)
John Fogerty’s memoir “Fortunate Son:My Life/My Music” will be available on October 6, 2015. You can pre-order the book and receive a downloadable excerpt.