Music Reviews

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Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles
Friday, Nov. 23

John Fogerty raised the concert bar for Rock Hall of Famers in their 60s with his last tour, sprinting around the stage, simply attacking his guitar and reviving long-dormant album cuts from his four-decade career.

Friday night's show at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles didn't build on the momentum of that outstanding 2004-05 tour, but it was another typically crowd-pleasing affair that showcased his singular talent, versatility and enduring relevance.

Fogerty might have been ailing a bit; he was less active, and his voice faded in the last half-hour. But he also chose not to dig any deeper into the Creedence Clearwater Revival catalog -- or his solo material, for that matter. Other than five songs from his terrific new album, the set offered nothing he didn't play last time.

All told, that's a minor gripe because Fogerty still had plenty to offer. The show got off to a scalding start with "Good Golly Miss Molly," which sped past the speedy Creedence version into an almost punk realm and reminded how deftly Fogerty could rearrange a classic as well as pen a new one. He followed with a mix of sing-along Top 40 classics, longer workouts from CCR's deep albums and a smattering of solo stuff.

The aptly titled new album "Revival" (Fantasy) is easily the strongest of his solo career. It's rawer and more focused than "Blue Moon Swamp" -- which he completely ignored Friday -- and more honest and less self-conscious than "Centerfield." It leans heavily on his Creedence past while spotlighting the renewed vigor in his songwriting, singing and guitar work. Lead single "Don't You Wish It Was True" rescued some licks that had been stuck in "Lodi" for almost 40 years, and its abrupt rhythm change worked even better in concert. "Creedence Song," a proud and justified nod to that band's enduring legacy, also was a kick live, with Fogerty relishing its guitar and vocal runoffs from "Green River."

One of the album's most effective tracks was among the dozen or so songs in the set with an overt political theme, as Fogerty again finds himself with an unpopular war to write about. "Long Dark Night" slaps the White House brain trust upside its head as a twangy guitar and chugging rhythm supplies the body blows. "George is in the jungle/knockin' on the door/come to get your children/wants to have a war." Later, as the band began the new "Gunslinger," he asked, "Could we have some leadership in this country?"

A couple of roughly 10-year-olds were seen belting every word to "Have You Ever Seen the Rain," but that's when Fogerty's vocal woes began in earnest. After finishing that hit, he sat to deliver the new album's gentle, deeply personal gem, "Broken Down Cowboy." At first it seemed like microphone trouble, but the new Nokia Theatre's unforgivably clear sound system revealed a voice that was losing its power -- fast.

A couple of raspy songs later, a roadie rushed onstage with a coffee cup and gestured to his own throat. Aware of his vocal shortcomings, a clearly distracted Fogerty repeated a verse of "Centerfield" then addressed the problem after finishing the song. "Some of y'all may have noticed I left my voice in another suit," he quipped.

The elixir, whatever it was, helped Fogerty's voice for the last 20 minutes of the set, but he remained self-conscious about not being at his best. He said he hoped that the crowd could give him a "rain check" on this performance, then proceeded to finish the show with a fiery "Fortunate Son," "Travelin' Band" and "Proud Mary."

Despite the vocal flaws, Fogerty showed Friday why he remains among rock's elite -- especially among its '60s survivors. Come back to town, John, and give Los Angeles that rain check.
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