- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

“I’ll have what she’s having,” the words uttered by the anonymous woman sitting across from a euphoric Meg Ryan in the famous restaurant scene from “When Harry Met Sally,” could easily apply to John Fogerty’s Friday performance at the 9:30 Club.

I don’t know what he ordered before going on stage, but I’d sure like to have some of it.

From the opening blast of “Travelin’ Band,” to the final strum of “Proud Mary,” Mr. Fogerty and the boys in the band had their mojos workin’ overtime. Their sensational, 24-song performance had the sold-out crowd howling under the crescent moon of the stage backdrop.

Mr. Fogerty, 59 going on 29, spent half the show in the air, doing that two-footed jack rabbit spring he’s been doing ever since his Creedence Clearwater Revival days. Likewise, his singing hasn’t lost any power or range. Those swamp water-soaked vocal cords still have as much kick as granddad’s white lightnin’.

For the past eight years or so, Mr. Fogerty has gone from slowly allowing a few Creedence songs to enter his shows to (as he did Friday night) reviving darn near every CCR prime cut you’d want to hear. His reluctance to play the group’s material for so many years was due in large part to his having lost the publishing rights in a bitter legal fight with Fantasy Records and his former band mates.

Creedence is often labeled as the greatest American singles band of all time (although Beach Boys fans could debate that), and this show gave ample testament as to why. “Green River,” “Lodi,” “Fortunate Son,” “Run Through the Jungle,” and a parade of other hits just kept tumbling down upon the mixed-age crowd, which often sang along.

Mr. Fogerty and backing guitarist Billy Burnette rode George Hawkins’ mile-deep bass groove on a soul-shaking “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” replete with fade-out ending. Mr. Burnette and Mr. Hawkins also delivered precision harmony vocals with Mr. Fogerty on the country-flavored “Rambunctious Boy” from the “Blue Moon Swamp” album. Drummer John Molo — playing the deepest bass drum I have ever heard — laid down the lumber throughout the night with extra snap and flourish in a way that CCR sticks man Doug Clifford never could.

Mr. Fogerty used a rotation of at least a half-dozen different guitars, which he changed on virtually every number. The most unusual was a Louisville-slugger bat-guitar which he used to play his 1985 solo hit “Centerfield.”

Indulging his appetite for 1960s garage rock, Mr. Fogerty played one-handed electric organ on “Radar,” one of four numbers he performed from his new album, the new “Deja Vu All Over Again.”

“This song is about that critical time in every relationship, the weekend,” he said when introducing the tune.

The band performed the somber title track of the new CD accompanied by a video. Projected overhead, the video depicted images of war and flag-draped coffins. These were juxtaposed with footage of a little girl (apparently Mr. Fogerty’s daughter) picking flowers, and finally walking with and hugging her dad.

Mr. Fogerty, a U.S. Army veteran, has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq (as he was of the Vietnam War), but he made few other comments beyond the song’s lyrics and the imagery.

On “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” he flubbed the first verse (crossing it, I believe, with a verse from “Who’ll Stop the Rain”). Without missing a beat, he acknowledged the misstep , then repeated the verse with the correct lyrics.

Mr. Fogerty says he’s “having the time of his life” on this tour, and he certainly appeared to be doing so — slapping hands with fans throughout the show, chatting with them, throwing his head back after nearly every song and bellowing his heartfelt thanks for the crowd’s reaction.

He also promised to revive some of CCR’s rarely performed numbers on this tour, and he delivered with “Bootleg,” “Tombstone Shadow,” “It Came out of the Sky” and Ray Charles’ “The Night Time is the Right Time.”

Still, nothing topped “Old Man Down the Road,” Mr. Fogerty’s 1985 solo hit that not only brought him back from 10 years of lawsuit-induced retirement, but also magnificently sums up the slightly sinister bayou-rock ethos that’s the core of his music.

Over that primordial, swamp-guitar lick, Mr. Fogerty takes you down to the crossroads to catch a fleeting peek of the old shaman with coal-black eyes, who speaks in riddles and carries a suitcase covered in rattlesnake hide.

And unless you wanna find out what’s inside, or hear those riddles, you better run and hidey-hidey-hide.

But if you want to hear it again, you know where to go.

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