Before he heads to Bethel, NY, this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty brought his own “My 50 Year Trip” tour to New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall on Thursday evening. Bill Kelly shared some thoughts and photos from the performance:
One thing about our memories of the late ’60s is that there is no lack of imagery and sounds that trigger nostalgia. Even before the first chord was struck on John Fogerty’s Rickenbacker guitar, New York’s iconic Radio City Music Hall was filled with twirling, flower-laden dancers, music from Tommy James, The Rolling Stones and The Cowsills(!), images of war, peace protests and, of course, Woodstock.
Fogerty opened the show with “Born On The Bayou,” immediately reminding the sell-out crowd of that swamp-boogey rock-and-roll that was unique to his California-based band. The singer growled, howled and ran across the stage like someone closer to the age of his son Shane (who played rhythm guitar in his father’s band and proved himself to be a very capable musician). Following a searing cover of Dale Hawkins’ “Suzie Q,” Fogerty got into the now famous story of how a very dosed Grateful Dead meandered the stage at Woodstock for nearly an hour before settling into a set that included a 40-plus-minute “Turn On Your Lovelight” that ended when the band’s amps simply burned out. Facing an exhausted, wet and nearly electrocuted audience, Fogerty tried his best to get the crowd up and back into an active listening mode for CCR.
What Fogerty was driving at, though, is that the music, the movements, the zeitgeist of the time was all based on hope—hope for civil rights, for an end to an unnecessary war that was killing unfortunate sons and for a kinder world. Building on this message, the show included covers of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People/Dance To The Music” and “Give Peace A Chance” from the Plastic Ono Band. Following Shane’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” (concluding with the burning guitar), the elder Fogerty brought back the fear and frustration of the ’60s U.S military error with “Run Through The Jungle,” accompanied by flashing images of the Vietnam War.
Following “Keep On Choogling” ( in case you are wondering what “Choogling” is “…you go to ball to have a good time/And that’s what I call choogling”), Fogerty launched into one of his most metaphor-laden songs, “Who’ll Stop The Rain.” Ostensibly referring to the downpours of Woodstock, Fogerty was writing to the angst of an era—about being lied to, about a White House occupied by an angry narcissist, about mistrust and fear of an uncertain future.
So, was the show really about nostalgia, about the lost tribes of the ’60s that filled the fields of Yasgur’s farm 50 years ago? Anyone in the smile-filled audience will tell you that it was more a reminder of how the power of good music, performed by a group of talented musicians, can bring us back together and remind us of the power of hope and the human spirit. John Fogerty is an American treasure, a unique blend of heart and guts and a clear vision of how everyday people can make the world a better place.