So well-attended was the John Fogerty concert at the Freeman Arts Pavilion that guests arriving in the final half-hour before the opening act began at 7 p.m. were directed to park about a mile away, to be transported to the venue by school bus.
But the minor inconvenience was well worth a nearly 90-minute concert — part of Travelin’ Band Tour — on Saturday, Sept. 10, with some of the finest guitar playing in the business, by Fogerty and his sons, Shane and Tyler, who opened for him with their rock bank Hearty Har, plus an outstanding band — keyboardist Bob Malone, saxophonist Rob Stone and drummer Kenny Aronoff.
Now 77, but energetic throughout the show, Fogerty, a prolific songwriter, had many of his fans out of their seats, dancing in the grass at the outdoor venue and singing along to hits including “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” “Rock and Roll Girls,” “Hey Tonight,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” and a tender love song he wrote for his wife.
Switching from guitar to guitar and playing harmonica, he brought back memories from the 1960s, when, for four years, he played with Credence Clearwater Revival, together from 1967 to 1972, then continued for decades afterward.
Holding his iconic guitar “Slugger,” shaped like a baseball bat and crafted by Philip Kubicki, Fogerty sang one of his most popular hits, “Centerfield,” known for the catchy lyrics “Oh, put me in, coach, I’m ready to play today. Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Look at me, I can be centerfield.”
It was originally released in March 1985 as the other side of the single record “Rock and Roll Girls.”
Fogerty has said he was inspired to write the song because when he was growing up, there was no Major League team on the West Coast, so he decided to be a Yankees fan. Yankee Joe DiMaggio played centerfield — and was born in the Bay Area of California.
Talking to the audience at Freeman, Fogerty said he was in a forlorn state of mind, after his girlfriend left him and his dog bit him, and gave away the guitar he was holding to a little boy who asked. Afterward, he was sorry he’d done that, but more than 40 years later, his wife, Julie, whom he married in 1991, tracked it down and put it under the Christmas tree for him.
He wrote “Who’ll Stop the Rain” on that guitar, he said, launching into the song.
Wearing jeans, a denim shirt and red kerchief around his neck, Fogerty casually talked to fans, telling them they might have noticed a family resemblance between him and some of the band members, and that was because he was playing with his sons.
Shane Fogerty recently got married, and Fogerty and Julie have been married 31 years, he said, introducing the love song he wrote for her, “Joy of My Life.”
With a drum bearing his name behind him, and large lava lamps on each side, Fogerty — listed as No. 40 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists (Jimi Hendrix was No. 1, named Greatest Guitar Player in History) — continued, singing “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Run to the Jungle” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” preceding the last song by saying his daughter, Kelsey, is away at college, “and I sure do miss her.”
“Kelsey is a rainbow in my life, and this song has a rainbow in it,” he said.
After an hour and 15 minutes, he waved to the audience, yelled a brief thanks and walked off a stage that went dark, prompting hundreds of people to get to their feet yelling, “Come back! More! More!”
And he did, to rousing applause.
“We have a couple more for you,” he said, performing “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising” as the audience, signing along, sent a chorus of the lyrics up into the night sky.
“God bless you all. Thank you for that,” Fogerty told the audience.
“I feel good. I feel great. I have the best job in the whole world, because I get to play for people who are having a good time, like you.”