John Fogerty compares his late-1960s cultural exploration to being an astronaut.
“It’s like going to the moon,” Fogerty says. “There are very few who have had that experience.”
Fogerty is back in residency at Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on Wednesday through April 20 in a concert show dubbed, “My 50 Year Trip.” In this updated production, Fogerty is revisiting one famous, trippy memory by playing the entire set list from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s appearance at Woodstock in August 1969.
Fogerty has excavated that memory many times and still laughs through the retelling.
“I’m the guy who followed the Grateful Dead,” he says. “When I say just that, everyone laughs. Everyone has a pre-conjured idea of what that must be like, and by golly, the Grateful Dead lived up to their reputation, their hype, their image.”
Because of legendary traffic snarls caused by the three-day event, band needed to be rerouted to even arrive at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, site of the stage. They were flown on a World War II-issued helicopter from a Holiday Inn in Albany, N.Y., to the concert site.
“We came over this hill and I looked into this, I guess, bowl of half a million people and I had never seen anything like it in my life,” Fogerty says. “We were just this tight-knit rock ‘n’ roll band, but the enormity of it, oh my goodness, it was actually scary.”
CCR, on a torrid streak by late-summer 1969 with “Proud Mary,” “Born on the Bayou” and “Green River” all over the radio, was scheduled at the choice 9 p.m. Saturday slot, after performances by such festival favorites Santana, Canned Heat and the Dead. “It had been raining, a lot, and these were kids who were not prepared for any rain. It was behind schedule, chaotic,” Fogerty says. “It got later and later, and finally at midnight the Dead takes the stage.”
The Dead, which decades later admitted taking hits of LSD before going onstage, played about 45 minutes, then stopped.
“I thought, ‘Silence! All right! Our turn!’ ” Fogerty says. “But then word got to us that there was a problem — the Dead is still onstage. They start playing music again! Well, I was anxious, a little ticked off, but they were well-known to be loose and disorganized and even a little dysfunctional. We had to wait it out.”
Fogerty and his bandmates finally hit the stage at 2:30 a.m. “I could only see the first two or three rows because of the archaic lighting system they had, but I always say, they were people just like me — except they were naked, and they were asleep.”
CCR sounded the alarm, opening with “Bayou” and “Green River.” After 20 minutes, Fogerty took the mic.
“I said, ‘We hope you’re having a good time out there! We’re playing our hearts out for ya! We want you to enjoy this!’ ” Fogerty says. “And I saw one guy, flicking his lighter out there, and I could hear him, ‘Don’t worry about it, Joooohn! We’re with yaaaaa!’
“In my mind, I was playing for that guy.”
Fogerty chuckles, “Rock-and-roll, right? We played pretty fiercely, and by the end, the place was jumping again, but I had a mental breakdown to get there.”
Fogerty is in the lineup for Woodstock 50 this August. He joins Carlos Santana, Melanie, David Crosby, John Sebastian, Country Joe McDonald, Canned Heat and Hot Tuna, all of whom performed at the original Woodstock. And yes, Dead & Company, with former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, is also on the bill.
“The one set that looked really hot was Santana’s,” Fogerty says. “I used to really like paling around with his band in those days. They were great, and I know Woodstock was really a big part of Carlos’ career.
Fogerty offers that his participation in the event lives on primarily in his memory.
“You know, I’ve never seen the movie, and we were not in the movie for the exact reasons I’ve just told you.” he says. Once, he listed to a reel-to-reel tape of “Bad Moon Rising,” and says, “It sounded good, but there was nothing extra-special in it. We just had an experience that was unique from anyone else who was at Woodstock.”
Celine hints to return
During her appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Friday, Celine Dion said her upcoming “Courage” tour and album later this year do not preclude her returning to Las Vegas.
“This is my second home, and this is not like I am leaving Las Vegas,” she said, referring to her 16-year run in two residencies at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. “It’s kind of like taking a ride, opening a new chapter in my life.”
Dion is on the road until at least March 2020. She’s also been doing this thing where she breaks into song during interviews, startling the interviewer (including Kimmel) with her powerhouse voice.
Bummed about reports that Aerosmith has cut the Las Vegas horn section from its “Deuces are Wild” residency at the Park Theater. We’ll see how this plays out, but one of the reasons Lady Gaga’s “Jazz + Piano” show was so great was because of her live band. At least Aerosmith is still using the string section. … Upon further research, I feel the comic who made funny sounds who opened for current Bally’s Jubilee Theater headliner Dionne Warwick in the 1970s was indeed Charlie Callas. They were billed together many times at the Sands. We were attempting to sort that out during our interview a couple of weeks ago … “Ester Goldberg’s Totally Outrageous Brunch” at The Sayers Club at SLS Las Vegas has cut the early show from its schedule and is going with its 1:30 p.m. show Saturdays and Sundays. Producers plan to return the 10 a.m. show on May 18, when they hope business picks up … Classic story making the rounds about how a new Strip headlining show has taken umbrage — umbrage, I tell you! — at being reviewed unexpectedly by a media member from outside Las Vegas. The hard rule is, if you are in a ticketed performance, always be prepared for a review … Master Magician Lance Burton turned a few heads Saturday at Mat Franco’s show at Linq Hotel. “Great night of magic, comedy, improvisation and entertainment, ” was Burton’s posted endorsement.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.