John Fogerty has made peace with his past and his present, and his live show is all the better for it. He finally settled his notoriously acrimonious dispute with Fantasy Records, which kept him from playing Creedence Clearwater Revival songs in concert for decades. His bitterness gone, he's written some of his most powerful material in years on his new album, "Revival," which came out in October. He hit highlights from both eras of his career during a fierce two-hour set Friday at the Nokia Theatre.
The venue is still working out some kinks, as slow-moving security checkpoints kept attendees waiting in long lines to enter. But after starting 40 minutes late, Fogerty soon banished thoughts about anything but the music. He opened with a taut version of Little Richard's hit "Good Golly Miss Molly." Covered by CCR on 1969's "Bayou Country," it set the night's mood by pointing to how deeply rooted Fogerty's sound is in American rock traditions, with his many Chuck Berry-style guitar solos.
The bouquet of dried wheat on his microphone stand gave the show a homespun feel. But it was an otherwise no-muss, no-fuss stage show. Fogerty even joked, "Now that's what I call a production," as stools were brought out for his band before the new song "Gunslinger." The twangy, heartfelt rocker had as many standout guitar riffs as any Creedence song while showing off Fogerty's pointed political commentary. "It's about, 'Could we get some leadership in this country, please?' " he said as introduction.
The night's most arresting moment was "Deja Vu (All Over Again)," from his 2004 album of the same name. As he played the melancholy anti-war song, with images from the Vietnam and Iraq wars projected behind him, his protest had simple power and grace.
But the night was really about the hits, and they were awesome and abundant. Many were introduced with winning anecdotes, like those about the childhood memories that prompted "Green River," and his experience playing Woodstock, which led to "Who'll Stop the Rain." All it took was the first unmistakable riffs to get the crowd cheering for "Lookin' Out My Back Door" and "Born on the Bayou."
Backed by a tight five-piece band plus a three-piece vocal group, Fogerty attacked his guitar with a beatific grin and remained good-natured even as his voice weakened toward the night's end. And he beamed with pride when his two sons joined him on guitar during "Up Around the Bend."
It hardly seemed as if he'd have anything left for the encore. But he ended with an ecstatic version of "Proud Mary" that was a reminder that he wrote some of the rock pantheon's definitive songs, which he continues to deliver with bite. Equally impressive, he's still got plenty to say and just the right riffs with which to say it.