The Oakdale Theater is a favorite music venue. The seats are great and the acoustics are superb. Last Saturday, at the Oakdale, oh I mean the Toyota Oakdale Theater, I saw a favorite of mine; John Fogerty. Let’s back up here for a second. I really don’t understand companies who buy the naming rights to arenas. I am no more inclined to buy a Toyota simply because it adorns the entrance to the theater. I will never call Met Life Stadium anything but Giants Stadium. The XL Center in Hartford? Sorry. I don’t even know what an XL is? How about the Sports Authority Field at Mile High? That’s a mouthful. Or my personal favorite; The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville that houses the University of Louisville’s basketball arena. And yes, the exclamation point is part of the name. Go figure.
Anyway, we get there early and find our seats. I thought they were excellent seats. Middle orchestra, end seats. I thought that until I had to get up for everyone who got there after me. Excuse me, excuse me, etc. The demographics were decidedly not the coveted 18-49 crowd. It was more of the Lipitor/Nexium crowd with a splash of Plavix thrown in. Sure, there were some young kids, but they might have gotten confused by the signage and thought they were shopping for a new car.
Just as I am sitting comfortably, in lumbers a couple that their combined weight probably equaled a Toyota Camry. And they are sitting next to my wife. He sits down and it was like he was nearly sitting on my wife. Sorry dear, no armrest for you! My wife spent half the concert clinging to my shoulders. It made for a more intimate experience. With me, not the big guy.
The lights dim, the spark machines go off and John Fogerty steps onto the stage. First song “Tonight.” One of my favorites and he and the band crush it. One of the facts on the video loop before the show was that he travels with about a dozen guitars. He hitches up a new one, the fog machines light up and he segues into “Born on the Bayou.” His guitar work was brilliant. The videos were set up in varying rectangular screens and on the stage risers. It really made for a great visual effect.
It’s about 35 minutes after the concert started and people are still trickling in. What, you didn’t have all day to figure out you were going to a concert tonight? Not something that usually slips my mind. But that’s me. Now they are excusing themselves in a dark theater, stumbling over people, spilling drinks, while you are trying to enjoy yourself. Thank you for being so self-absorbed.
Between songs, Fogerty tells us that one of his biggest influences was Little Richard and other early rock and roll and rhythm and blues players. Then the band breaks into “Good Golly Miss Molly.” Fantastic. A few songs later the band breaks into “Keep on Chooglin’.” Not a favorite of mine but they absolutely slayed that song. The drummer, Kenny Aronoff, a drum god of mine, does an amazing drum solo that had the entire audience mesmerized. Fogerty then pulls out his harmonica and starts wailing. Flames are shooting up; Fogerty is joined in the center of the stage by the rhythm and bass guitarists. The song is building and building, people are on their feet dancing and singing. It was an amazing rendition of that song.
A few songs later, Fogerty is telling the audience about his Woodstock experience of having to follow the Grateful Dead at two in the morning. As the band breaks into “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” a bunch of beach balls drop from the gantry. I finally got to hit one; first time in 45 years of concert going, right into the back of someone’s head, but it was dark so we’re all good. To my left is a cardiologist playing air guitar and I’m jamming with him, drumming on the back of the seat in front of me.
It’s midway during the concert, and since this crowd is of the older variety, you guessed it; they have to hit the lavatories. Not en masse which would be the polite thing to do, but one, then another and another and finally a trickle. So I’m standing up and down for about ten minutes or so.
An interesting fact about John Fogerty is that he was actually sued for sounding like himself! What happened was Saul Zaentz, who was the owner of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s old label, Fantasy Records owned the rights to “Run Through Jungle.” When Fogerty released “The Old Man Down The Road,” Zaentz sued Fogerty saying that the song “The Old Man Down The Road” was simply a repackaged “Run Through The Jungle.” So Fogerty was sued for essentially plagiarizing his own song. Fogerty eventually prevailed in court but it cost him a ton of money in legal fees.
During the song “Long As I Can See The Light,” Fogerty went up on the center stage riser and was bathed in 16 narrow beam spots. He looked as if he were glowing. The effect was breathtaking.
I couldn’t wait until “Centerfold,” because Fogerty plays a guitar that is shaped liked a Louisville Slugger. During “Fortunate One,” some of the videos screens were displaying images of the Vietnam era. Others were showing flames. It was a very moving interpretation of how the country was being torn apart at that time.
The band breaks a little over two hours for the encore. Everyone is one their feet screaming and clapping. They come back and play “Bad Moon Rising,” and end with “Proud Mary.” The confetti cannons explode, house lights go up and the band walks off behind a curtain of confetti. Awesome.
Walking out of the venue listening to the creaking of knees and flushing of the bathrooms I watch some guy in his fifties wobbling so drunk he could hardly walk. His two buddies were laughing at him. When we got to the car, the guys next to me kept on telling how stoned they were. I was especially interested in the very stoned guy, not the somewhat stoned guy, tell me that he was into Fogerty before Fogerty was. I’m sure there is logic there, but it was lost on me.
Anyway, it was a truly great performance. The band was tight, the songs were spot on and it gave me a little glimpse back when I was young. A truly sweet evening.