Bluesfest 2016 III – John Fogarty

I am not a wine expert, so what I am going to say next may not be true. But I have been told that some wines don’t age as well as others.

I don’t remember if it is due to the deterioration of the cork, or sheer age, but sometimes a fine wine will become vinegary and undrinkable with the passage of time. Generally old, rare wines are considered ‎the best, but every so often you read of someone who has spent tens of thousands of dollars for a rare vintage and discovered that their investment in completely undrinkable. It’s a chance they take.

You take a similar chance when you decide to attend a concert given by an aging musician. Especially rock and roll stars. The traditional rock lifestyle can take its toll. And all of us as we age lose some of our abilities. The fingers aren’t as nimble on the fretboard or keyboard, the voice can no longer hit the high notes. Catching such a performance can be a disappointing experience for a longtime fan. Better to preserve the memories of the artist in their prime.

When I think of musicians who have reached that stage, my first thought is Gordon Lightfoot. His voice just doesn’t have the presence it once did. He can still sing, but it comes across as a whisper. Mind you, he’s still Gordon Lightfoot and people are happy to see him perform, even if he is past his prime. I think I’ve seen him three times in the past five years.

All of this is to say that I saw John Fogarty perform at RBC Ottawa Bluesfest on Sunday night. It was the second time I had seen the former Creedence Clearwater Revival guitarist/vocalist live, the previous time being at the same festival in 2011. Fogarty was the person I most wanted to see perform at this year’s event. He put on a great show five years ago, and I was hoping for a repeat performance. But I am well aware that the man in 71-years-old. I don’t expect to be performing at that age. (Who am I trying to kid – I don’t perform now, so it’s pretty definite I won’t be performing at 71.) In five years he could have lost a fair chunk of his skills, but I took the chance.

I was pleased to discover that John Fogarty remains a fine wine – no traces‎ of vinegar in his performance. The voice is still strong, the guitar playing still fluid. And the hits stand the test of time.

It always seemed rather incongruous that a band from San Francisco performed swamp rock straight out of the Louisiana bayou, but I’m not gonna complain. I’ve never been to the American south, I’m quite willing to accept CCR’s version.

When you’ve been around as long as John Fogarty, you know what the people want to hear. That is what was delivered. Not all the songs played were hit singles, but they were all well-known songs from the CCR canon.

Recognizing the time constraints and the impending city noise curfew, Fogarty kept the between- song patter to a minimum. No complaints, though I would have enjoyed hearing more about the songs and the tours that spawned them. Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, but I had never realized that “Who’ll Stop The Rain” was inspired by following the Grateful Dead on stage at the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

No quibbles about the song choices. There were a few songs I would have liked to hear – but there is no way to squeeze everyone’s favourite into a 75 minute set. With the exception of a couple of Fogarty’s solo hits toward the end of the set, it was an all CCR show. That’s what the people wanted, that’s what the people got.

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